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Hong Kong man faces meth-smuggling charges in New Zealand

The key role Hong Kong and Guangdong play in the international crystal meth business was highlighted yesterday when a man from the city appeared in an Auckland court to face charges ­related to one of New Zealand’s biggest ever drug busts.

The 20-year-old, who authorities did not identify, is thought to be part of a drug smuggling syndicate whose key members are based in Hong Kong and ­Guangdong province.

His arrest earlier this month followed a 16-month investigation by New Zealand customs after they identified a front ­company in June 2015 they ­believed was involved in smuggling the powerful stimulant, also known as “ice”.

New Zealand customs said the drugs, which arrived from the Guangdong port of Huangpu ­hidden in shipping containers in July this year, had an estimated street value of NZ$176 million (HK$974 million).

The haul was the customs ­department’s largest ever crystal meth seizure.

Customs sought help from Hong Kong as part of their probe into the syndicate, including for information on the suspect’s background, an official Hong Kong source said.

The man was linked to the shipment in the weeks after the July seizure.

Jamie Bamford, manager of the government’s customs intelligence group, said the haul showed New Zealand customs could dent the meth supply chain by using intelligence to target shipments before they get to the country.

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“Customs remain focused on disrupting transnational smuggling through our role at the ­border and dismantling the criminal syndicates involved,” he said.

“The operation is ongoing, and we are not ruling out further arrests.

“This seizure prevents New Zealand’s criminal gangs from profiting from the misery caused by pushing meth through our ­cities and rural communities.”

Bamford said they would work with overseas counterparts for follow-up investigations in China and Hong Kong.

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The suspect is scheduled to attend Auckland District Court again on November 17.

Four months ago, New ­Zealand police made the ­country’s biggest ever meth bust – even bigger than customs’ July haul – with the seizure of 494kg of the drug.

In September and earlier this month, mainland police confiscated 2,010kg of crystal and liquid meth valued at HK$723 million, when they shut down two drug factories in Guangdong.

A Hong Kong man was among more than 10 suspects. A source told the Post that it was possible the drugs were destined for ­Australia or New Zealand.

It is understood the drug could be bought for less than HK$50,000 per kg from illegal drug labs on the mainland.