A home in Wellington was evacuated and army explosives experts were called in after police found a grenade during a massive drug bust.
Police used undercover officers and bugged gang members ahead of early morning raids that netted firearms, methamphetamine, and at least $450,000 in cash.
Undercover operations boss Detective Inspector Mike Arnerich said police were “ecstatic” with the haul, which was the biggest he had known in 40 years of policing.
A “fortified” property was among those raided on Tuesday morning, and police were mopping up in the afternoon after arresting suspects including two senior patched Mongrel Mob members.
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Several properties in the northern suburb of Tawa were searched, with cash, 10 firearms, and two stolen motorbikes worth about $30,000 found. Raids were also carried out in the East Auckland suburb of Howick, and two people suspected of supplying the mob with imported meth arrested.
Safes were found in the Wellington raids, but had not yet been opened. Police photos showed cash stashed in walls, as well as weapons and ammunition. An estimated 1 to 2 kgs of meth worth up to $1.8m was seized.
Six people were arrested after the operation, including two in Auckland, and face methamphetamine related-charges. A total of 150 police officers were involved – 120 in Wellington operations, and the rest in Auckland.
Wellington raids happened in Linden, near Tawa, about 6.55am, with the armed offenders squad and police dogs involved.
A witness said about a dozen police cars, as well as AOS members, were at one house and he heard screaming, dogs barking, hammering and the sound of power tools.
Arnerich, of Wellington district covert operations group, said officers had spent four months investigating the Porirua Mongrel Mob’s meth business.
“But we’re pleased the most for the community.”
The mob’s customers were thought to come from “every socioeconomic class”, Arnerich said.
Police would tell the courts that the mob distributed about 20 kilograms of meth in greater Wellington over the past 6-9 months, Arnerich added.
A Linden property kept under surveillance had “hundreds of visits” from suspected customers, Detective Senior Sergeant Tim Leitch said.
“There was a range from grams to ounces being sold … a user may more likely buy a quarter-gram. If you’re buying grams or more, you’re most likely selling some of it, if not all of it.”
The house had surveillance cameras, alarms, and reinforced doors.
A Coates St resident in Tawa who witnessed the raid said one flat was a “well-known” Mongrel Mob pad.
“A bunch of cops came along, two armed offenders squad [members] with guns. There was a bit of noise … someone yelling, ‘we’re not going to hurt your dog’.”
Another resident said about 20 police officers turned up early in the morning, and he saw a man with a red ute and a bulldog tattooed on his face.
“There was barking and shouting.”
Police said undercover officers infiltrated the gang and listening devices were used too.
Assets seized, including two homes, 13 vehicles, a jetski and two boats, were worth an estimated $1.8m.
The six arrested faced a total of 56 charges.
In Porirua District Court, four people faced charges including supplying methamphetamine, cultivation of cannabis and possession of the synthetic drug N-bomb.
A 46-year-old man facing 31 charges was remanded in custody.
Two men, 44 and 23, were also remanded in custody, and a woman aged 40 was granted bail.
All four were granted name suppression until April 19 and will reappear in court later this month.
A 48-year-old man and a woman aged 34 were to appear in Manukau District Court.
According to police Gang Intelligence Centre data supplied to Stuff, there were 348 patched gang members living in greater Wellington last year.
Twelve gangs were represented in the district, though some had very small membership numbers.
The largest, understood to be the Mongrel Mob, had 197 members last September.