Police national organised crime group director Detective Superintendent Greg Williams briefs media after 35 people were arrested across the North Island.
The cousin of a Comancheros boss who has evaded police for a number of years has been arrested in Thailand on drugs charges.
Shane Elwood Ngakuru has been named as a co-defendant of a number of people facing charges in New Zealand.
Detective Inspector Paul Newman confirmed Ngakuru, who is also a Comancheros member, had been arrested in Thailand following a joint operation involving the FBI and Thai Police.
“He was arrested by Thai CIB in Samutprakan province early this morning,” Newman said on Wednesday.
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“Ngakuru had been identified during Operation Trojan Shield as allegedly being involved in serious drug offending and he has been the subject of an international red notice.”
Ngakuru is the cousin of Duax Ngakuru, who has been referred to as the “international commander” of the Comancheros.
Duax Ngakuru is a New Zealand citizen but lived in Australia for many years. He is now thought to be in Turkey.
The June 2021 sting, codenamed Operation Trojan Shield, involved police swoops across 16 countries with more than 800 suspects arrested, aided by an encrypted communications platform developed by the FBI.
The sting was part of a global crackdown on organised crime, described as the “world’s most sophisticated law enforcement action”.
More than 9kg of methamphetamine was seized, along with four guns, 14 vehicles and motorbikes, large quantities of cannabis and more than $1m in cash under the New Zealand based Operation Spyglass.
About 40 people in New Zealand were charged, including an entertainer.
Police worked with the FBI, as well as the Australian Federal Police.
New Zealand police said the FBI had created a closed encryption system, “AN0M”, to monitor people’s communications, and for 18 months the alleged offenders were unwittingly using an FBI system to talk about their criminal behaviour.
The users believed their AN0M devices were protected from law enforcement by impenetrable encryption, police said.
Meanwhile, detectives were able to get hold of thousands of messages.
Detective superintendent Greg Williams, director of the New Zealand Police’s national organised crime group, previously said transnational groups were preying on vulnerable people.
Court documents filed in the United States said AN0M had generated millions of dollars in profit by facilitating the criminal activity of transnational criminal organisations.
Distributors and agents described AN0M to potential clients as “designed by criminals for criminals”.
The documents said Ngakuru was a distributor of AN0M and was involved in drug trafficking and money laundering.