€30 million haul | 

Mastermind Irishman behind one of New Zealand’s largest imports of meth ran ‘very sophisticated’ operation

Mark ‘Baldy’ Byrne was charged in absentia and faces extradition
Irishman Mark 'Baldy' Byrne is led away by Spanish authorities

Irishman Mark 'Baldy' Byrne is led away by Spanish authorities

Clodagh MeaneyAP

The mastermind Irishman behind one of New Zealand’s largest imports of Methamphetamine ran a “very sophisticated” operation.

Mark ‘Baldy’ Byrne (50) was one of the most wanted criminals in the country after he failed to appear in court charged with importing a Class A Drug, possession for supply, and participating in an organised criminal group.

A warrant was issued for his arrest and circulated by Interpol as his location was unknown at the time.

The Dubliner was then arrested at a ski resort in Spain, the court is yet to decide if he will be extradited to New Zealand to be charged in connection with the 500kg meth haul, which was smuggled into the country in April 2019.

Journalist Jared Savage told Nicola Tallant on Crime World that his operation to smuggle the drugs worth more than €30 million was “very sophisticated.

“It’s very sophisticated, well organised, with a lot of money to be made.”

“We know they were using cypher encrypted devices, so that's a common device used among various criminal groups,” he explained.

Savage said that Byrne also must have “very good connections” in the drugs world.

“It seems that he’s got very good connections, probably in south-east Asia. We know that there were meetings held in Bangkok, Thailand before the shipment came to New Zealand about six months later.

“It’s fair to assume that that's roughly the area where the drugs were manufactured.

“He’s got enough contacts allegedly to find a way into New Zealand and then he’s obviously got a crew, allegedly, selling it on his behalf in the country and then finding a way to get the money back out of New Zealand and it’s his coffers.”

Savage said that the fact Byrne was identified as a suspect was ‘very unusual’.

“[He was] very well organised, very slick and what’s kind of unusual for us in New Zealand is, often we have these groups sending large shipments to supply various networks here, actually getting an investigation where there’s enough evidence to identify an alleged mastermind back overseas is quite rare.”

“It takes a lot of cooperation with other international law enforcement groups and so if he is successfully extradited back to New Zealand, it’d be one of the big catches for the New Zealand police force for sure.”

When it comes to moving drugs through the country, Jared explained the process.

“Once you're inside the country it's very hard to track down. Typically in New Zealand, meth will be sold at a wholesale level in kilogram amounts. So 500 kilos broken up into 500 small packages.”

“[They sell] from anywhere between NZ$100,00 (€61,230) to NZ$150,00 (€91,850),” he said.

“To give you some idea of the mark-up, the profits to be made, a kilogram manufactured in the golden triangle, south-east Asia or Mexico, it’s probably NZ$1,000 (€615).

“So there's huge profit to be made by international groups.

While he said 500 kilograms might not sound like a lot to some Europeans, the amount of money “means it's probably on par with a much larger shipment to a bigger country.”

You can listen to Nicola Tallant’s full interview with Jared Savage, ‘Episode 127, The mystery Irishman suspected of running New Zealand's biggest drug racket,’ wherever you get your podcasts.

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