New Zealand police said they dealt a “blow” to organized crime after a major transnational attack resulted in 35 arrests and $ 3.7 million in assets seized.
New Zealand police have promised more arrests in the wake of the global crackdown on organized crime, and last week two men in Rotorua were charged with working with crime figures living abroad. Jared Savage reports.
A well-known New Zealand artist has been charged with conspiracy to launder $ 6 million for a suspected organized criminal group, following the so-called ‘Scam of the Century’.
Millions of private conversations considered impossible to intercept by law enforcement were, in fact, shared on the Anom encrypted platform created by the FBI and Australian Federal Police in a sting called Operation Trojan Shield.
This unprecedented treasure trove of intelligence was shared with a dozen countries, including New Zealand, and dovetailed with an ongoing investigation into large-scale drug trafficking allegedly linked to the Comancheros motorcycle gang.
When the globally coordinated raids took place last month, around 40 people were arrested and charged with serious drug trafficking and money laundering offenses in New Zealand.
Police said more people were at risk of prosecution and last week detectives from the National Organized Crime Group arrested two men in Rotorua.
One is a 57-year-old man charged with conspiracy to supply methamphetamine and Class A drugs, as well as participating in an organized criminal group.
The second man was charged with participating in an organized criminal group and conspiring to launder more than $ 6 million.
The two men appeared in Rotorua District Court and were granted the temporary removal of their names.
The Herald can reveal that the alleged $ 6 million money launderer is a well-known artist, although details of his career cannot be reported without identifying him.
He is jointly charged with several individuals, including two alleged to hold senior positions in the organized criminal group, Duax and Shane Ngakuru, who have so far escaped law enforcement.
Duax Ngakuru is a New Zealand citizen who left Australia in 2010 to live in Turkey, where he allegedly conspired to import large amounts of methamphetamine and MDMA into New Zealand.
He is a close friend of Hakan Ayik, a priority Australian Federal Police target in Operation Trojan Shield. Undercover agents gave Ayik the encrypted Anom app, marketed as an indecipherable means of communication, and he fell straight into the trap set by AFP and the FBI.
Ayik shared the Anom app with his suspected criminal network, allowing law enforcement around the world to monitor every conversation and collect suspected evidence of international drug trafficking.
One of those who allegedly spread the word Anom in Ayik’s name was another New Zealander, Shane Ngakuru.
Cousin of Duax Ngakuru, Shane Ngakuru is believed to be living in Thailand and wanted by the FBI as an alleged distributor of the Anom devices.
He would have received payments for the $ 2,000 six-month subscription fee and could have remotely removed and reset devices, as well as communicated with the administrators of the encrypted platform.
Anom has been marketed as “designed by criminals for criminals” in an attempt, according to the FBI, to facilitate worldwide drug trafficking and money laundering without detection by law enforcement.
Allegedly playing such an important role in distribution and technical support, Shane Ngakuru has been indicted in connection with the so-called “ANoM Enterprise” under US anti-racketeering laws.
“At least 9,500 Anom devices are in use around the world, including the United States. Since October 2019, Anom has generated millions of dollars in profits for the defendants by facilitating the criminal activities of transnational criminal organizations and protecting these organizations from law enforcement.
The FBI considers Shane Ngakuru to be a “fugitive”. If arrested and convicted in the United States, he faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
If ever arrested, Ngakuru, 41, would be charged in New Zealand with importing methamphetamine, cocaine and MDMA into the country. He also faces charges of drug conspiracy, money laundering and involvement in an organized criminal group.
Operation Trojan Shield has been dubbed “the sting of the century” and widely regarded as an unprecedented coup for organized crime, with more than 800 arrests worldwide.
Importantly for law enforcement, the investigation undermined once-unwavering confidence in encrypted communications devices or apps where suspected organized criminals could once openly discuss their activities without fear of their messages being intercepted by police. .
– Zizi Sparks Additional Reports