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New Zealand – Auckland gambling data proves key to drugs bust

By - 16 December 2013

Unusual gambling activity logged by New Zealand operator Sky City in the VIP lounge of Sky City Casino has helped police to a record drugs haul that could have created over $120m of the drug methamphetamine.
New Zealand’s leading operator has said it has been fully compliant and that it has co-operated fully with the authorities following the link to criminals who are said to have gambled in its VIP lounge at its Auckland casino.
An 18-month police investigation led to the drug bust with key players in the alleged international crime syndicate believed to have spent millions of dollars in the VIP lounge.
Homes, cars and up to $20m in cash are believed to have been seized from the players during Operation Ghost. The investigation into the crime syndicate is believed to have started in the VIP lounge of the casino with police alerted to millions of dollars gambled there by several individuals.
Police say these initial investigations have helped recover more than 330kg of the class-B drug pseudoephedrine used in the manufacture of $100m worth of methamphetamine. Whilst Operation Ghost did not uncover any evidence of drug deals taking place inside SkyCity, though high ranking members of the syndicate are believed to have socialised in the VIP lounge.
Head of the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand, Malcolm Burgess, revealed that data recorded by SkyCity on ‘three or four’ suspects helped form part of an ongoing investigation to seize their assets.
Mr Burgess explained: “If someone has spent a large sum of money at the casino and they haven’t got a legitimate reason for having it, given the activity they’ve been allegedly engaged in, it’s a reasonable assumption to think the money is connected to drugs. I’m aware of three or four with a history at the casino. That gives us some insight into their assets. We’ll use that as part of our investigation into the asset seizure and restraint process.”
A spokesman for SkyCity said the casino had co-operated fully with the police and the Department of Internal Affairs and ‘fully discharged’ its legal obligations.
“We take our responsibilities in this area very seriously,” the spokesperson said. “We place a very strong emphasis on surveillance and security, spending millions of dollars on this each year. We work very closely with the police and other enforcement agencies. We have zero tolerance for alleged criminal behaviour, that’s why any customers caught up in this investigation have either already been banned from our premises or will be as soon as possible as more information becomes available.”

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