New Zealand police said Wednesday they found more than 3 tonnes of cocaine floating in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean after an international drug smuggling syndicate dumped it there.

While they had yet to make any arrests, police said they had dealt a financial blow to everyone from the South American producers of the drugs to distributors in what was the largest drug seizure in the country’s history.

New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the cocaine had been dumped at a floating transit point in 81 bales before it was intercepted by a navy ship, which was deployed to the area last week. The ship then made the six-day journey back to New Zealand, where the drugs were being documented and destroyed.

Bags containing packets of cocaine found floating in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean by New Zealand police.New Zealand Police / AP

Coster said the wholesale value of the 3.5 tons of cocaine was about NZ$500 million ($316 million) and was likely destined for Australia.

“We think there was enough cocaine to serve the Australian market for about a year, and this would be more than New Zealand would use in 30 years,” Coster said.

He said police, customs and the military found the drugs after launching Operation Hydros in December in collaboration with international partner agencies to identify and monitor suspicious vessel movements.

New Zealand police said on Wednesday, February 8, 2023, that they found more than 3 tons of cocaine floating in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean after it was dumped there by an international drug smuggling syndicate.
A shipment of cocaine floats on the surface of the Pacific Ocean with the Royal New Zealand Navy vessel HMNZS Manawanui behind.New Zealand Police / AP

Coster said they were continuing to investigate the case with other international agencies.

Bill Perry, the acting comptroller of the New Zealand Customs Service, said the haul illustrated just how far organized syndicates would go to smuggle drugs into the South Pacific.

“We see that perhaps this is just an indication that transnational organized crime groups are testing the market in different ways, so as agencies we need to collaborate,” Perry said.