Victor Borisenko, Vladislav Pischako and Guy Shalom — all three Israeli nationals — have been sentenced to eight years, three months in a New Zealand prison for attempting to smuggle MDMA, also called ecstasy, into the country, reports the New Zealand news website Stuff.
The police say the criminals counted on heavy visitor traffic during the high tourist season to offer them some cover. The criminals were sentenced after a nearly year-long investigation.
"Criminal syndicates may think they can get away by sending drug couriers during peak travel times because Customs is focused on clearing passengers," says Peter Lewis, customs manager at Auckland Airport.
"While this is true for our legitimate travelers — we wear two hats and are just as focused on catching criminals," he added, according to Stuff.
The website says the price for ecstasy on the streets of New Zealand is one of the highest in the world, making this black market very appealing for drug cartels.
While $2.5 million is surely a hefty sum, it has been beaten by a lone French smuggler who attempted to bring 24 kilograms of cocaine to the country. The police apprehended the 26-year-old French national in the coastal city of Paihia.
The weighty luggage (for comparison, it's equal to five five-liter kegs of water, more than your office water cooler bottle) is estimated to be worth between $6.8 million and $7.56 million, Xinhua reports.
A French national allegedly tried to smuggle 24kgs of cocaine — estimated to be worth between $6.8 and $10.8 million — into New Zealand on a cruise ship. https://t.co/Djc99cn8sL pic.twitter.com/cmCXw50S8S— RNZ (@radionz) 21 декабря 2017 г.
Once again, customs used the catch to boast about the high alert level of their border guards.
"We hope this sends a strong message to those seeking to traffic drugs: New Zealand border and law enforcement partners are working together to catch you, and not just at airports," Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri said in the statement.
The man is charged with possession for supply of a class A drug and faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, according to Newshub. However, the man may face additional charges as well.