Pubdate: Wed, 19 Aug 2009
Source: Dominion Post, The (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2009 The Dominion Post
Author: Simon Wood
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Outlaw Bikers)


Three Hells Angels associates are among more than 1000 people arrested
after the largest crackdown on the cannabis industry in a decade.

More than 140,000 cannabis plants were seized and destroyed as police
used air force helicopters and chartered airplanes to scour the
countryside for drug plantations in the 2008-09 operation.

The gang associates were arrested after police found 100 plants in a
forest east of Wanganui.

A frontline officer, who did not want to be named for fear of
jeopardising future operations, said the harvest was possibly destined
for the bikie gang. "It wasn't a huge crop but they clearly knew what
they were doing."

The officer said the plantation was in a dense, virtually impenetrable
private forest.

The offenders, who have pleaded guilty to cultivating cannabis, were
probably visiting the crop once a fortnight, the officer said.

National co-ordinator Detective Senior Sergeant Scott McGill said some
of the plantations were sophisticated. Many were on rural land which
did not belong to the offenders, and some were quite isolated.

"Our guys obviously take precautions going into the plantations ...
they make sure they've got strong, sturdy footwear and they're
stopping and having a look around before they rush in.

"The offenders may have put some things like poison down for the
possums and there are cages set up for some of the

Operation Kirsty, as it was dubbed, was carried out in spring and
summer after intelligence-gathering.

Once police became aware of a plantation, either through a tip-off or
their own investigations, they flew overhead to verify its location.

Officers were then winched down and removed the plants.

While Mr McGill said it was often hard to track down the harvesters,
he was confident the operation would make a "reasonably big impact" on
the cannabis industry.

However, he denied that the bumper catch up from just over 124,000
plants last year was due to a rising drug problem.

"Some might say that, but it might be that we've just found more than
we ever have."

Northland, with its vast spaces and warm climate, was one of the most
prolific areas, and the biggest catch was a 2000-plant crop just north
of Auckland.

Police are seeking the confiscation of five properties under the
Proceeds of Crime Act.

Mr McGill said the operation would be repeated next



During Operation Kristy, police:

Destroyed 141,000 cannabis plants.

Arrested 1125 people.

Seized 191 firearms.

Recovered stolen property worth $400,000.

Busted four methamphetamine laboratories. 
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