Police seize $500m in cash and assets
More than $500 million in illegally obtained cash and assets have been seized by police over a four-year period.
Police say this is a key milestone in the ongoing focus on disrupting organised crime and preventing harm in communities.
Reaching the $500 million milestone comes as police also reveal the results of an 11-month investigation into an organised crime group in Auckland.
Operation Worthington saw 16 search warrants executed throughout the Auckland region yesterday, netting 44 kilograms in methamphetamine, valued at over $44 million, 26 kilograms in ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.
Five kilograms of ketamine and three kilograms of MDMA, nearly $1 million in cash, and assets including property and vehicles, worth over $10 million were also seized.
More than 200 charges have been laid against 20 people as a result of the latest sting.
Police Assistant Commissioner of investigations Lauano Sue Schwalger says yesterday’s operation highlighted the success of police’s continued focus on organised crime.
“Police have seized a total estimated $513 million worth of cash and assets since the annual reporting target came into effect on 1 July 2017,” she says
“Our goal was to hit $500 million by 30 June, and in doing so we know we have had a direct and significant impact on organised crime – an activity that feeds on greed, profits, and harm to the community.”
Our job is to make their job less profitable, and less appealing, says Schwalger.
“It is money that provides criminals with power and influence, but it is also proving to be their biggest vulnerability.
“Congratulations to all the staff involved in yesterday’s Operation Worthington, and to all staff who have been involved in ongoing efforts to disrupt organised crime groups, and to minimise the harm they cause in the community."
The illegally gained and accrued wealth from criminals become proceeds of crime and will be redistributed back into positive community projects via the Proceeds of Crime Fund.
The fund has invested in several initiatives including $4.94 million in reintegration services for women through Ara Poutama Aotearoa, $3.15 million for mental health and addiction treatment services in the Eastern Police District, and $1.78 million in the Ministry of Health’s Manaaki Wāhine – a trauma-informed intervention for women experiencing homelessness.
“If we remove the money that is used by criminals to reinvest in further illicit activities, we dismantle their ability to create other opportunities to cause harm,” says Schwalger.
Taking away the assets that criminals have purchased with the proceeds of their criminal activity, sends the message that crime does not pay, she says.
“It also means taking away the lifestyle and ‘high-end toys’ that are used by gangs to attract prospective members.
“We will continue the excellent work we do to make New Zealand the safest country by making it the hardest place in the world for criminals to do business."