More than three tonnes of cocaine, with a street value of more than £260m, has been found floating in a remote area of the Pacific Ocean.

It is thought to have been dropped there by an international drug-smuggling syndicate.

While no arrests have been made, police in New Zealand say the country's largest drugs seizure has dealt a financial blow to everyone from the South American producers of the drug through to the distributors.

New Zealand police commissioner Andrew Coster said the cocaine was dropped at a floating transit point in 81 bales before being intercepted by a navy ship deployed to the area last week.

The ship then made a six-day trip back to New Zealand, where the drugs were being documented and destroyed.

“This is the largest find of illicit drugs by New Zealand agencies, by some margin,” Mr Coster said of the find, worth about 500 million New Zealand dollars.

"While this disrupts the syndicate's operations, we remain vigilant given the lengths we know these groups will go to circumvent coming to law enforcement's attention," he said

Some of the packages were labelled with a Batman symbol. Pictures released by New Zealand police and defence officials also showed cocaine packets labelled with a black four-leaf clover symbol. These were the "trademark logos" for the drug producers.

Mr Coster said the 3.2 tonnes of cocaine were likely destined for Australia. "We believe there was enough cocaine to service the Australian market for about one year and this would be more than New Zealand would use in 30 years," he added.

Mr Coster said police, customs officials and the military found the drugs after launching Operation Hydros in December in collaboration with international partner agencies to identify and monitor the movements of suspicious vessels. He said they are continuing to investigate the case with other international agencies.

Partners in the Five Eyes intelligence group – which includes Australia, the UK, Canada, and the US – had provided assistance.

Bill Perry, the acting comptroller of the New Zealand Customs Service, said the haul illustrates the lengths organised syndicates are going to in order to smuggle drugs in the South Pacific.

"We see perhaps this is just an indication that the transnational organised crime groups are testing the market in different ways, so as agencies we need to collaborate," he said.

Associated Press

From news to politics, travel to sport, culture to climate – The Independent has a host of free newsletters to suit your interests. To find the stories you want to read, and more, in your inbox, click here.

2023-02-08T13:11:50Z dg43tfdfdgfd