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crime world ‘Idyllic’ New Zealand hit with gang violence as biker gangs cash in on meth problem

"Drug issues, meth in particular, has changed the criminal underworld here in last 20 years," says journalist Jared Savage

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Record seizure of methamphetamine In New Zealand with approx street value of $448 million

Record seizure of methamphetamine In New Zealand with approx street value of $448 million

Record seizure of methamphetamine In New Zealand with approx street value of $448 million

A top crime writer has told how his idyllic New Zealand homeland is being plagued by meth addiction and a growing problem with biker gangs, Asian crime groups and Mexican cartels.

A top crime writer has told how his idyllic New Zealand homeland is being plagued by meth addiction and a growing problem with biker gangs, Asian crime groups and Mexican cartels.

Journalist Jared Savage whose book 'Gangland: New Zealand’s Underworld of Organised Crime' lifts the lid on a violent underworld, tells this weeks Crime World podcast that drug issues only started becoming a problem in the 1990s — nearly 15 years after Ireland’s heroin scourge started.

“A lot of people living overseas would see new Zealand as idyllic. With Covid we look pretty good right now but underlying all of it we have the same social problems as are seen across the world.

“The gap between the haves and the have nots is increased, there are housing problems, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse and horrific levels of domestic violence so it’s all tied in with the same sort of issues.

"So certainly drug issues, meth in particular, has changed the criminal underworld here in last 20 years.

“We often believe we are five years behind Australia and 10 or 15 years behind the UK and Ireland.”

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Firearms seized in Operation Mystic, an investigation into a New Zealander living in Italy

Firearms seized in Operation Mystic, an investigation into a New Zealander living in Italy

Firearms seized in Operation Mystic, an investigation into a New Zealander living in Italy

As the heroin scourge swept Dublin in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, across the globe New Zealand remained smack free.

“In the ’70s and ’80s we didn’t really have a hard drug problem but there was a lot of cannabis because there is a good climate and a lot of space to grow it.

“We had some heroin, but just a small amount of it in the 1980s but really things changed in the late 1990s with meth being introduced.

“It was quite a potent form of it and pure, not what we would call speed, and quite quickly it became a very popular drug. Meth makes you feel incredible and 10 foot tall — it gives users huge energy and it really took off.

“It was popular amongst anyone from white collar workers in the leafy suburbs, kids in private schools and then all the way across society into the motorcycle gangs.

"In particular, the Hells Angels and the Headhunters caught onto it and the huge money to be made.

“It soon got a stigma because of people doing crazy and horrific crimes. We call it ‘P’ here because of it’s purity. There were horrific murders and even children got killed. The stigma pushed it underground and there it stayed. Five years ago there was this second wave of it and it came back in a very strong way.”

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The Rolls-Royce and Range Rover on the back of the trucks were seized from the Comancheros in Operation Nova

The Rolls-Royce and Range Rover on the back of the trucks were seized from the Comancheros in Operation Nova

The Rolls-Royce and Range Rover on the back of the trucks were seized from the Comancheros in Operation Nova

Meth, which was used as a stimulant during World War II, is smoked in a glass pipe but can also be snorted, swallowed and injected. But the huge prices for it sparked the interest of transnational crime groups.

Kilos of meth purchased for $1,000 from Mexico reached record highs in New Zealand in recent years when it retailed at $300,000.

It has now levelled at $180,000 per kilo and the ‘point of a gram’ bought by users has stayed at $100 for the past 20 years.

Cocaine, too, is hugely expensive in New Zealand and retails at around $350 per gram — four times the price in Ireland. “The high is not as long lasting as meth so meth is still more popular, but cocaine is coming through as well.”

Across the world biker gangs have pushed meth to fund their activities and have entered bloody battles for their turf.

And many others have been lured by the money. In his book, Savage tells the story of William Wallace, a former airline worker who started to fix motorbikes after he retired.

When police busted his operation they discovered that he was cooking meth for the biker gangs who had come for a service.

The real life Walter White from Breaking Bad ended up in prison and is noted as one of the first known millionaires of the meth trade.

Gangland: New Zealand’s Underworld of Organised Crime is available to by as an e-book or can be ordered on Amazon. Jared Savage is a guest on Crime World.

Crime Word Podcast can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Soundcloud.

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