Five arrested, more than 1.3 million cigarettes seized in Auckland

By and is republished with permission

Five people have been arrested and more than 1.36 million illicit cigarettes, firearms, and a “substantial amount of cash” has been seized following searches in Auckland in recent days.

More than 1 million illicit cigarettes seized by Customs. (Source: NZ Customs Service)

The New Zealand Customs Service carried out a search on Auckland’s North Shore this morning, leading to the arrest of a 35-year-old man and the seizure of illicit cigarettes and a “large quantity of cash”. He was due to appear in the Auckland District Court this afternoon.

Today’s confiscations and arrest followed searches by Customs, assisted by police, on Friday involving three homes, a private catamaran, and a storage facility on the North Shore, as well as a commercial business in Greenlane.

Three men and a woman, aged between 35 and 45, were arrested and appeared in the North Shore District Court on Friday.

A substantial amount of cash, two firearms, ammunition, and further evidence was found at one of the residential properties, Customs said. Customs investigators also found 286 black rubbish sacks containing more than1,300,000 uncustomed cigarettes in the self-storage facility. The cigarettes equated to approximately $2 million in revenue evasion.

Ammo seized by Customs.
Ammo seized by Customs. (Source: NZ Customs Service)

The group members were facing multiple charges, including defrauding Customs revenue, possession or custody of uncustomed goods, sale of uncustomed goods, and participation in an organised crime group. Further charges were being considered.

Customs investigations manager Dominic Adams said the investigation, dubbed Operation Montreal, began in February 2024 in relation to a network of people believed to be responsible for the large-scale distribution of uncustomed cigarettes across Auckland.

Cigarettes seized by Customs.
Cigarettes seized by Customs. (Source: NZ Customs Service)

“Customs has a specialist investigations team that’s focused on tracking down smuggled tobacco to both combat tax evasion as well as other associated crimes and the serious consequences this can have on our communities,” he said.

“This issue is bigger than smuggling or selling cheap cigarettes. Customs is increasingly seeing that well-resourced organised criminal groups are often involved — with cigarette profits potentially being used to fund more serious crimes.”

A firearm and ammo seized by Customs.
A firearm and ammo seized by Customs. (Source: NZ Customs Service)

Anyone who knew or suspected someone was involved in illegal smuggling was been asked to call Customs on 0800 WE PROTECT (0800 937 768), a 24-hour confidential hotline, or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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