Shane Ngakuru is believed to be hiding out in Thailand, which does not have a formal extradition treaty with New Zealand.
A Kiwi fugitive in Thailand has been charged by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with distributing phones to facilitate transnational organised crime.
Shane Ngakuru is the only New Zealand citizen named in a federal indictment filed in a San Diego court.
The grand jury indictment says Ngakuru is living in Thailand.
He is among 17 foreign nationals the FBI alleges distributed thousands of phones carrying the encrypted communication app ANOM.
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What the members of the organised crime syndicate did not know was that ANOM was in fact operated by the FBI, meaning law enforcement officials could read every message they sent.
The result was more than 500 arrests across the globe this week, including 35 people in New Zealand.
Those 35 people nabbed in arrests across the North Island on Monday and Tuesday are facing more than 900 charges.
The grand jury indictment, unsealed by the United States Attorneys Office in Californias Southern District in the wake of the arrests, charges 17 alleged distributors of the FBI controlled devices and app.
Together, they are alleged to have sold more than 12,000 ANOM encrypted devices and services to over 300 criminal syndicates operating across more than 100 countries.
Users negotiated drug deals encrypted messages on the compromised devices, the FBI will allege.
They sent pictures of drugs, in one case hundreds of kilos of cocaine hidden in shipments of pineapples and bananas.
The global sting included busting cocaine transported in hollowed-out pineapples, from Costa Rica to Spain. (Department of Justice via AP)
The organised crime groups include outlaw motorcycle gangs, allegedly including the Head Hunters and Commancheros in New Zealand, plus Italian organised crime and various transnational drug trafficking groups.
Ngakuru and the other defendants are charged with conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a law originally intended to target the Italian Mafia in the US.
Thailand, where he is believed to be hiding out, does not have an extradition treaty with New Zealand.
In New Zealand, senior members of the Mongrel Mob, Head Hunters and Commancheros gangs were among those arrested in the Kiwi branch of the massive police operation targeting organised crime.
All up, the New Zealand arm of the operation, codenamed Operation Trojan Shield, netted 35 people across the North Island, who are facing 900 charges.
They have been accused of drug dealing and money laundering and appeared in courts in Auckland and Hamilton on Tuesday.
All were granted interim next suppression until their next appearance on June 29, while one man also had his occupation suppressed. None entered a plea.
In this undated photo supplied NZ police, a box containing large amounts of cash after a raid.
The sting was part of a global crackdown on organised crime, described by police as the worlds most sophisticated law enforcement action.
More than 9kg of methamphetamine has been seized, along with four guns, 14 vehicles and motorbikes, large quantities of cannabis, and more than $1 million in cash.
NZ Police have been working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States since January 2020 on the operation.