Published by: NewsHub
Police have arrested a lawyer and an accountant who they allege helped an Australian biker gang launder money in New Zealand.
On Thursday, police seized about $4 million in assets from 10 locations across Auckland, the result of a year-long investigation into the Comancheros.
Five people were arrested on money laundering and drug importation charges.
Greg Williams, national manager of the National Organised Crime Group, told media the day’s events have dealt a “major blow” to the Comancheros, who have a growing presence in New Zealand with about 20 members – both locals and deportees from Australia.
Police allege the group intended to import both methamphetamine and ephedrine.
Iain Chapman, national manager of the Financial Crime Group, said among the arrested are two white-collar professionals who helped the gang.
“We’ve effectively targeted professional facilitators – in this case a lawyer and an accountant – who have chosen in their professional capacity, we allege, to enable this gang to launder their funds,” he said.
“I want to make it really clear that if you, in your professional capacity, choose to enable an organised crime group to flourish through laundering of their funds, you can expect full and robust attention from police.”
As well as two properties and a number of luxury vehicles, police also seized $60,000 in cash, a loaded pistol and a military-style semi-automatic pistol grip shotgun and ammunition – a weapon now banned under the Firearms Amendment Bill which passed in Parliament this week.
Chapman said the gang specifically chose to spend money on assets that would entice young people to join them.
“By removing these assets, we’re removing the desire to join these gangs.”
He said the Comancheros use social media to market themselves as a high-class crime empire rather than a street gang. He said it’s important that New Zealanders understand how such groups operate, and that behind the veil of glamour is an “immense amount of suffering” caused by drug abuse.
Williams said many organised crime groups are rebranding themselves as businesses that want to attract both customers and recruits.
“Don’t think you can come to New Zealand and behave in that way,” he warned.
Phase one of the operation into the Comancheros was carried out on February 12, when six people were arrested across New Zealand and Fiji and 50kg of cocaine was seized.
Williams said police expect more arrests in the coming days.
He said one positive outcome from the operation is that the gang’s assets will be dissolved and the money returned to the Crown, some of which will go toward helping New Zealanders affected by drug addiction.