New Zealand seizes record $350 mln drug haul from smugglers

New Zealand police seized a record 494 kg (1,100 lb) haul of methamphetamines after tip-offs from residents of a coastal community about mysterious men needing help launching boats off a beach.

Police said on Tuesday they found most of the drugs, with a street value of NZ$448 million ($315 million), in the back of a caravan on Sunday after searching a car and an abandoned boat by 90 Mile Beach, 400 km (248 miles) north of Auckland.

An entry on a GPS device found in the car led officers to find a smaller stash buried in the sand on the beach on Monday.

The haul eclipsed the 334 kg (736 pounds) total combined amount of methamphetamine seized in New Zealand last year, police said.

"This is without a doubt, the largest ever seizure of methamphetamine in New Zealand," Superintendent Russell Le Prou, District Commander, Northland Police said in a statement.

Residents had contacted police after some strangers had offered large amounts of cash to help them launch boats. The men had been "acting suspiciously" in the area for two weeks.

Police said they had seized a second boat and were investigating where the methamphetamine had come from, with many of the bags showing signs of exposure to salt water.

Three men, aged 31, 26 and 19, were scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday after being charged with importing Class A drugs.