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New Zealand, Tongan police stop int'l drugs scam

(Xinhua)

16:22, August 17, 2011

WELLINGTON, Aug. 17 (Xinhua) -- Police in New Zealand and Tonga have arrested three people in an alleged international drugs "scam. "

New Zealand Police said the Auckland Police Drug Squad Wednesday arrested three people who attempted to arrange the sale of hundreds of kilograms of methamphetamine allegedly stockpiled in Tonga.

Detective Inspector Bruce Good the arrests were the result of an investigation that began in early July, involving a 34-year-old Tongan man who had arrived in New Zealand with an associate after traveling to Tonga to sample the drugs.

"This action confirmed that the methamphetamine was genuine and arrangements were then put in place to bring the stockpile to New Zealand for distribution," Good said.

After "extensive inquiries" in New Zealand and in Tonga in a joint investigation with the Tongan Police, two search warrants were executed in Tonga on Aug. 12 and several Tongan nationals believed to be involved in the drug syndicate were questioned.

Good said police discovered from the interviews that no methamphetamine was actually available for exporting to New Zealand, and that Tongan-based members of the alleged drug syndicate were in fact attempting to "scam" hundreds of thousands of dollars from their Tongan associate.

Good said that despite the intervention of both the Tongan and New Zealand Police, the New Zealand-based offenders continued to believe that the stockpile of methamphetamine in Tonga was genuine.

"We believe they continued to make arrangements to get the methamphetamine smuggled to New Zealand and sell it to a number of associates."

On Wednesday, drug squad detectives arrested and charged the 34- year-old Tongan man and two Auckland-based men aged 37 and 40 on charges of conspiracy to import methamphetamine and participation in an organized criminal group.

The Tongan man has also been charged with an alleged conspiracy to kidnap, in relation to a woman living in Tonga, although no actual kidnap occurred.

The arrested people appeared in the Auckland District Court Wednesday.

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