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Muli Paunga and Lavakei‘aho Langi face high court  in NZ’s biggest drug bust

Police investigating what they say is the New Zealand’s biggest ever drugs conspiracy have arrested nine men including two Tongans.

Operation Weirton was a joint investigation between police and Customs.

All accused will face a High Court trial in 2025.

The arrests follow police and Customs intercepting a shipment of 613 kilograms of methamphetamine at Auckland Airport in March 2022.

“Eight men and one woman have been charged with various charges including importing methamphetamine, money laundering and possessing a Class A drug for supply”, according to a report published by Stuff.

“They had all previously entered guilty pleas at the District Court but at the High Court on Wednesday Justice Sally Fitzgerald set down a seven-week trial for April 2025”, the news outlet said.

Daniel Aperahama Hannett is charged with importing methamphetamine, money laundering, unlawful possession of firearm, pistol and explosives and possession of MDMA.

Warrick Wong, Hooi Keat Chai and Shen Tyson are all charged with money laundering.

Muli Paunga, Bradley Te Mai Koha Wijohn and Seni Lavakeiaho Langi all face charges of possessing methamphetamine for supply.

A man and a woman with interim name suppression are also charged with possessing the Class A drug for supply.

A name suppression hearing was set down for June.

The investigation, dubbed Operation Weirton, had been looking at a criminal syndicate’s alleged links to importation of controlled Class A drugs into the country, police commissioner Andrew Coster previously said.

Several of the people arrested are linked to the Comancheros gang.

Coster said the March 2022 bust was a “significant result” by the National Organised Crime Group to combat community hard caused by meth.

The initial drug seizure at the border had a street value of about $250m.

“Had this shipment been distributed across New Zealand it would have caused immense harm to the vulnerable communities these criminal groups were preying upon.”

It is estimated the drugs would have caused over $500 million worth of social harm, as per drug harm index figures, Coster added.