Antipodean airbnbs are being targeted by criminals looking to establish drug trafficking rackets and cash in on high methamphetamine prices Down Under.
Police made the biggest meth seizure in New Zealand’s history this week, Detective Superintendent Greg Williams warning that international crime syndicates were looking to use short stays in their business operations.
He said Australia faced similar dangers to NZ because of our meth retail prices, listing the two nations alongside Japan, Taiwan and South Korea as high-value targets for traffickers.
Williams, part of the NZ police’s National Organised Crime Group, said criminals set up front companies and use them to apply for an import licence, shipping goods with drugs hidden inside to be stashed in storage units.
He said people renting out short stay properties should “be aware of the risks” of accommodating drug traffickers, with warning signs including guests who insisted on paying cash and staying for unusually long times.
Customs investigations manager Bruce Berry urged Airbnb operators to be alert so they did not unwittingly become involved in criminal activity.
“It’s a known international trend for overseas nationals to come into the country just to receive and distribute drug shipments,” he said.
“They use storage units or commercial premises and hire homes on Airbnb as part of their illegal activity.”
The 469kg haul seized this week was hidden in a shipment of electric motors from Thailand and equated to roughly half New Zealand’s total yearly consumption of the drug, with an estimated street value of $235m. It is believed a sophisticated Canadian drug cartel is behind the shipment.
The bust followed months of investigative work by NZ authorities in conjunction with Australian, Canadian, US and British officers, culminating in raids across nine Auckland properties by 65 customs and police staff.
“Customs will continue to work closely with law enforcement agencies here and offshore, as well as industry partners, individuals and businesses, to target shipments and syndicates,” said Berry.
Two Canadians and a New Zealand national have so far been arrested, with more arrests likely in coming days.