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‘Really significant’ Ashburton drug bust- 18 people arrested in Operation Cobalt sting

Ashburton drug raid news

The biggest drugs operation in Ashburton in recent years has seen more than 160 charges filed against 18 people, following a series of search warrants in the area this week.

And the officer in charge says it’s a huge blow for methamphetamine and associated offending in the region.

One man alone faces more than 60 charges of supplying methamphetamine.

Ashburton Police enlisted the help of their colleagues in Christchurch and Timaru for the operation, which involved just over 100 officers including members of the Armed Offenders Squad, dog units, and the Specialist Search Group.

Senior Sergeant Leigh Jenkins, Sub-Area Commander for Ashburton, says it’s the biggest drugs bust in his area in more than a decade, and possibly the biggest of its type in Ashburton ever.

“This is really significant – we’ve taken into custody local people who have done an incredible amount of harm in our community.

“The people of Ashburton can be reassured that thanks to the success of this operation, we have dealt a blow to organised crime and gang activity in our area.”

The local operation, dubbed Operation Mastiff, is part of the nationally-focused Operation Cobalt, targeting and disrupting unlawful gang activity.

Operation Cobalt has seen huge numbers of arrests and seizures across the country in efforts to crack down on this offending.

There were 29 warrants conducted at addresses across Ashburton beginning on Tuesday.

Along with those arrested, items seized include drugs with a likely street value in excess of $70,000,including methamphetamine, cannabis, LSD, and other restricted drugs, nearly $20,000 in cash, two shotguns, a crossbow, seven imitation firearms, ammunition, and a number of other restricted weapons and prohibited firearms parts.

Those arrested are all local to Ashburton and mainly associated with the Mongrel Mob, while others have links to Mangu Kaha, Headhunters, and Highway 61 gangs.

Senior Sergeant Leigh Jenkins says smaller communities like his are not exempt from serious drug and gang-related offending.

“Our staff do an awful lot of work in order to identify, monitor, and prosecute those who create this serious harm in our communities.

“And it’s not just those who are personally involved in the drug world who are affected. This impacts families, friends, colleagues, as well as other members of our community who become victims of related offending such as burglaries,” he says.

“Criminals think they can get away with their activity in a smaller town, but that’s not the case. As this operation has shown, we can – and will – call on the resources of our District colleagues in Christchurch and Timaru to hold these people to account.”

Also seized in the Operation Mastiff search warrants were a small number of power tools (pictured), believed to have been stolen in a burglary in town.

“I’m confident that these arrests will go a long way to helping ensure our community is safe and feels safe,” Senior Sergeant Jenkins says.

Police want to remind people that they rely on the public to help stamp out this offending, by supplying information to us to help form a picture of what’s happening in our communities.

You may feel like the information you have is not significant, however, it could be the missing piece of the puzzle Police need to put offenders before the court.

Information can be passed to Police via 105 by phone on online, or alternatively information can be provided anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online at www.crimestoppers-nz.org.

The significant arrests are:

  • A 45-year-old man faces 67 charges, including 61 charges of offering to supply methamphetamine, and two charges of unlawful possession of a firearm. He has been remanded in custody to reappear in Christchurch District Court on September 19.
  • A 50-year-old man faces 26 charges of possession for supplying methamphetamine, and nine of possession of a Class C drug. He has been remanded in custody to reappear in Christchurch District Court on September 19.
  • A 28-year-old man faces nine charges, including six charges of supplying cannabis and one of conspiracy to deal methamphetamine.
  • A 40-year-old man faces nine charges of conspiracy to deal methamphetamine.
  • A 53-year-old man faces seven charges of possession of a Class A drug and one charge of breaching a protection order by being in possession of an imitation firearm.
  • In total, 18 people face approximately 165 charges, mainly relating to the supply of methamphetamine.

Most are expected to appear in court in either Ashburton or Christchurch over coming days.

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Source:NZ Police

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