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3.5 tons of cocaine worth over $300 million discovered floating in the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand authorities say

Authorities in New Zealand announced that they had intercepted a 3½-ton shipment of cocaine afloat in a remote swath of the Pacific Ocean.

“There is no doubt this discovery lands a major financial blow right from the South American producers through to the distributors of this product,” New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said in a news release Wednesday. “This is one of the single biggest seizures of illegal drugs by authorities in this country.”

No arrests had been made, but customs officials pointed to the magnitude of the bust, estimating the cocaine’s value at more than $315 million.

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In this undated photo supplied by the New Zealand police, a shipment of cocaine floats on the surface of the Pacific Ocean with Royal New Zealand Navy vessel HMNZS Manawanui behind. New Zealand police said Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023 they found more than 3 tons of cocaine floating in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean after it was dropped there by an international drug-smuggling syndicate.

The drugs were left by smugglers at a floating drop point, officials said. The size of the shipment, split into 81 bales, suggested to authorities that it was headed to Australia. A Royal New Zealand Navy ship hauled the seized narcotics on a six-day trip to New Zealand, where the drugs will be destroyed, officials said.

In this undated photo supplied by the New Zealand police, a shipment of cocaine lies on the deck of Royal New Zealand Navy vessel HMNZS Manawanui in the Pacific Ocean. New Zealand police said Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023 they found more than 3 tons of cocaine floating in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean after it was dropped there by an international drug-smuggling syndicate.

The seizure, authorities said, was part of an operation dubbed Operation Hydros that began in December.

New Zealand authorities said they would continue to investigate the case and monitoring “suspicious” vessels in collaboration with international law enforcement partners.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: New Zealand finds 3.5 tons of cocaine afloat in the Pacific Ocean