Police clamps on $1 million in Queenstown ‘drug’ assets
Police have put a clamp on more than a million dollars of Queenstown Lakes property after a major drug bust.
Police slapped restraining orders on two Queenstown properties valued at a total of $1.2 million – the orders come after arrests related to an alleged large-scale commercial cannabis growing operation thought to be linked to a multi-million dollar syndicate.
The four-year long police investigation – dubbed Operation Canary – targeted large-scale marijuana plant cultivation across Queenstown Lakes, Fiordland and Western Southland.
Police used the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery) Act to seize the assets, which also included a $380,000 Invercargill property, about $100,000 in cash, a $38,000 boat and two vehicles worth $45,000.
“Restraining the ill-gotten assets of people involved in organised criminal activity continues to be an important commitment for us,” detective senior sergeant Malcolm Inglis of the Southern District Organised Crime squad says.
Detective Inglis says at $1.8 million, it’s the highest value of assets that Southern Police have restrained under the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery) Act in relation to illegal drugs.
Police say that at least two arrests are still pending in relation to Operation Canary.
Police have arrested five people so far after executing search warrants last week.
They are Brian Anthony McCarthy, 62, of Arthur’s Point – he faces 19 charges of cultivating cannabis, three charges of selling it and one charge of conspiring to sell it.
Glenorchy man Andrew John Grant, 51, is jointly charged with cultivating cannabis. Both are expected to reappear on July 16.
Brodie Raymond Anderson, 23, of Mossburn, faces 42 charges of offering sell cannabis, three of cultivating and 17 of possessing it for sale or offering to sell it and is expected to reappear in Invercargill District Court on July 13.
Accountant David Christopher James Payne, 42, of Invercargill, faces 11 charges of cultivating cannabis and one of possessing it for sale or offering to sell it. He’s also jointly charged with 11 counts of cultivation and is scheduled to reappear in Invercargill District Court on July 13.
Separately, another Queenstown man also arrested cannot yet be named.
During Operation Canary, police recovered 300 cannabis plants and identified a further 500 plants. Cops believe the syndicate responsible has grown more than 1000 plants, producing cannabis with a potential street value of about $4.5 million.