Auckland businessman charged in connection with 1080-infant formula threat

Photo / NZ Police

A 60-year-old businessman from Auckland has been charged in connection to the criminal blackmail threat to poison infant formula with 1080, which was made public earlier in March this year.

The man has been charged with two counts of blackmail, each charge relating to threat letters sent to Fonterra and Federated Farmers in November 2014.

The arrest follows the execution of five search warrants in Auckland and the Rangitīkei district this morning.

Criminal blackmail is punishable by a sentence of up to 14 years imprisonment.

Commissioner Mike Bush was joined by Chief Executive of Ministry of Primary Industries, Martyn Dunn, and Detective Superintendent Andy Lovelock at today's press conference.

Commissioner Bush says today’s arrest follows a long and complex investigation (Operation Concord), "This investigation is one of the biggest undertaken by Police in recent times, and reflects how seriously we view this kind of crime."

“Today’s arrest is the result of dedicated investigative work over many months.  The Operation Concord team has demonstrated a meticulous approach in managing large volumes of information and applying a range of forensic techniques in gathering evidence,” says Bush.

Detective Superintendent Lovelock praised the work of his enquiry team.

Commissioner Bush confirmed that there is currently no threat to the public from this agenda, and at the moment, Police believe the accused acted alone.

He said that 2600 people were spoken to by Police during the course of the investigation, and that the accused was part of that 2600.

The total cost of the investigation to Police to date is over $3 million.

He continued to say, "While we are unable to discuss any specifics about the investigation, we can say that the general public reaction to the threat meant Police received a high level of cooperation from many people during the course of the enquiry.  We appreciate that there will be many questions about the investigation and the threat, however we are mindful of any judicial process to come as well as the investigative activity which is still ongoing."

Martyn Dunn (MPI) reassured that mums and dads should be confident that infant formula is as safe today as it was then.  He also confirmed that the testing regimes that took place during the investigation will continue.

Commissioner Bush concluded saying, “Today’s development sends a clear message that we will use all necessary resources at our disposal to investigate such threats, no matter how long it takes to bring threats of this nature to a conclusion.”