The fact that the television series Far North is based on real events is what makes it all the more bizarre. From the bunch of oddballs involved in the drug trafficking business to the hilarious cover story, the two Chinese men, a boat full of vegetables, and a second boat bought with a shoebox full of money—the Ninety Mile Beach drug bust had too many loopholes to get away with. At the center of the story are Ed and Heather, a couple living in Ahipara, Far North, New Zealand. It was not every day that the diesel mechanic and aqua aerobic instructor encountered strangers with zero sense of boat launch wanting to do so even when the conditions were unfavorable. And upon engaging with the group of men, they realized they were onto something.
Why Was The Boat Launch Necessary?
Blaze was heading the New Zealand drug operation, and she got Thugga on board to deal with the nitty-gritty bits of it. Thugga was in charge of employing men to collect the drugs from the shore and bring them into the city. The team consisted of Mack, Louie, Stevie, and Gravel, and while Thugga presented them as experts in the business, they had no idea what they were up for. The delivery was to arrive from China by sea, and Cai was the guy looking over it. Cai was a brutal man who kept his crew under control through cruel means. Jin was the captain of the ship, and accompanying her were three women, Bi, Hui, and Ling, who owed their service to ‘The Company’ in one way or another. An ex-addict with an infant waiting for her at home, Ling needed the job, yet she was terrified of the outcome. With only a day left to make the delivery, Ling believed that the worst was about to be over soon. Meanwhile, Thugga’s men reached Far North to receive the delivery. From the get-go, the four men seemed like an odd group, especially with Stevie searching for antacids wherever he went and ultimately settling for hours of hot water showers to counter the acidity.
Jin was close to retiring, and all she wanted was to leave China, travel, and settle abroad with her girlfriend. As the girls loaded the boat to make the delivery, Jin was confident that her dream would soon become her reality. Everything was going according to plan before the engine gave up. Jin begged Cai to grant them two more days to fix the engine and make the delivery. The delay resulted in the New Zealand group extending their stay up north. Things got more complicated when the engine became impossible to fix. The crew did not have enough fuel to head back to China; there was a scarcity of food and water as well. Jin requested that Cai send a rescue boat. Cai did not mince his words, and he was not happy with the situation. He agreed to rescue Jin only if she was willing to make the necessary sacrifices. Jin was ready to do anything as long as her crew members were rescued. The New Zealand crew was asked to buy a boat and make the required arrangements, and meanwhile, Cai traveled to the Far North. The boat that Thugga’s men got was not in great shape, and it was clear that they had no idea what they were doing. Launching the boat to reach the ship was necessary, and even though Cai was clueless about driving a boat, he had no other option but to volunteer for the job.
How Did Ed And Heather Find Out The Truth?
Ed and Heather got involved with the motley crew when they asked for their help to launch the boat. Ed had a tractor and the experience to perform the task. While the group did seem strange, Ed and Heather did not think much about it. The men stated that they wanted to scatter the ashes of their brother in the water, and that was why they needed help launching the boat. The story did not strike as odd, though Heather was a little suspicious. When Louie accompanied Heather to get the oil for the boat, he stated that the deceased was his brother. But Ed was told that the ashes were of Gravel’s brother. The story was falling apart, and they did not even realize it. They wanted to launch a boat without any idea about the perfect time or even the weather required for it. Not only that, their boat was not ideal for a launch from the west coast. Nonetheless, Ed helped the men as much as he could, but it was clear to him that the Chinese man in charge (Cai) had no knowledge about driving a boat. Heather thought it was odd that the entire group stayed back and only the two Chinese men were in charge of scattering the ashes. After repeatedly failing to launch, the boat gave up, and Ed stated that he needed a week at least to repair the boat. When he checked the boat, he found stacks of green vegetables stored. He also found a GPS device with a red dot blinking on the screen, suggesting that was the point the two Chinese men intended to go to.
As much as Ed and Heather tried not to read too much into the scenario, they ended up with enough evidence to prove that the men were lying. They left the urn in the boat and did not come back for it, even though it was integral to their cover story. The couple decided to find out what was inside the urn, and they were not too surprised when they found sand in it. It became obvious to them that the men were drug traffickers, and the red dot was from where they were to receive the delivery. With the boat in repair, Cai demanded a new boat to carry out the operation. Blaze agreed to it, as long as the cost was deducted from the next order. With a shoebox full of cash, they bought a fancy boat to carry on the rescue mission. They requested Ed to help them launch again. Ed and Heather knew that if they got involved, there would be no way out. So, they decided to call the police and inform them about the situation. The police did not seem too bothered about it. It was mostly an assumption, and they did not have concrete evidence per se. But Ed did not give up; he repeatedly called and updated the police.
How Did The Police Get Hold Of The Drug Traffickers?
With the new boat, the crew had a second cover story that involved fishing after scattering the ashes. Since they left the first urn in the first boat, the crew had a second urn to keep the story going. It was funny how they did not yet realize that by now, Ed and Heather must have already noticed the holes in their story. After shedding tears for their dear, non-existent brother, it was time for the Chinese men (Cai and Sam) to launch into the sea.
At the end of Far North, Ed and Heather smartly tackled a scary situation. When the GPS was handed to Cai, he noticed that the language had changed from Chinese to English. He demanded an explanation for it, and the crew seemed clueless about it. Ed hurried Cai for the boat launch, and Heather reminded the crew that the Tall Guy had taken the GPS device from the first boat, and he was possibly the one who changed the language. Since the Tall Guy was not present during the launch, it was a safe bet. Cai and Sam finally took off after their many failed attempts, and they reached the ship stuck in the middle of the sea. The girls grabbed hold of the bottles and quenched their thirsts after spending days without drinking water. Cai reminded them how they all owed their lives to ‘The Company’ and that they must work the rest of their lives to clear their debts. Jin was asked to pay, in the form of labor, the money that was required to buy the two rescue boats.
Jin’s dream of freedom was shattered within seconds, and the girls knew that there was no end to their suffering as long as they were alive. After unloading the bags full of meth, the all-women’s crew prepared to head back to China. Cai and Sam returned to the shore and finally completed the delivery. Stevie was in charge of driving Cai and Sam to the airport, while the rest of the crew collected the bags and celebrated their victory. Meanwhile, Ed and Heather had provided the police with all vehicle numbers, GPS coordinates, and the possible current location of the crew. The police headed out in search of the perpetrators, though they seemed rather relaxed. Louie was responsible for driving the camper van loaded with meth, while Mack, Gravel, and Tall Guy followed the van. Stevie noticed the police car headed towards the Hukatere entry and exit point and called his crew members. Louie received his call and stopped the moment he saw the police car approaching. He was certain that it was all over, but as it turned out, the police did not head out to catch the drug traffickers but to get hold of a graffiti artist.
That night, Mack headed out to meet Thugga, while Tall Guy and Gravel were in charge of getting the boat back in the morning. Louie was asked to stay put and guard the camper van till morning. Two men at the beach found the boat and informed the police about it. Tall Guy and Gravel crossed the police once again, and they were surprised by how lucky they were. The police did not stop them, and they went past confidently, though they were yet to get their boat back. Ed and Heather were extremely disappointed when they realized upon reaching the beach that the police had not performed their duty. They provided the number plates of the perpetrators’ car and camper van to the police once again, but Ed and Heather were confident that the gang must have moved out of town by then. Well, that would have been the case if the group had someone bright enough to advise them, but since there was a clear lack of brains, they were still in town waiting for the police to get hold of them.
Gravel and the Tall Guy drove to the lion’s den, and they immediately spotted two policemen talking to Ed and Heather. The police followed the car and arrested them. Gravel and Tall Guy were not worried at all, since they barely had any drugs on them. Meanwhile, Louie received a message from Thugga asking him to head home. Louie was driving the camper van suspiciously slow, and it caught the attention of a policeman. He noted the number plate, and upon checking, he figured out that it was the camper van they were after. He arrested Louie, and we find out at the end of Far North that the young father became a key witness to the Crown and was handed a reduced prison sentence.
Meanwhile, on the ship headed to China, Ling overdosed after Cai texted her the video he took of all the crew members. Ling knew that it was all over, and she would have to spend her life working for ‘The Company’, just like Jin. She realized that she would never be able to be the perfect mother to her daughter. She chose death over humiliation and suffering, leaving her daughter orphaned. While Cai instructed Jin to drop Ling’s body into the ocean, she refused to do so. They created a fake body to make Cai believe that they obeyed him, whereas, in reality, they planned on handing over Ling’s body to her family.
During Far North‘s ending, Jin, Bi, and Hui promised to stick together since they were all that they had. Most of the people involved in the operation, in one way or another, owed debt to the respective drug trafficking syndicates, and that was how they got involved. Apart from paying away their debts, the money they were promised could temporarily fix their lives. Louie had a child on the way, and he needed to earn as much as he could to provide for his family, though he later admitted that working small jobs would have been better than the risk he took for easy money. Both circumstances and personal choices played a role in their decision to become a part of the operation.
Is It Based On A True Story?
Far North is a fictionalized retelling of one of the biggest drug busts in New Zealand. In 2016, the police confiscated 500 kg of methamphetamine in the Far North from a camper van (490 in the camper van and 52 buried in sand dunes). A couple informed the police about the strange group of men, and the characters, Ed and Heather, are based on them. It took the police some time to confirm that the threat was real, and that eventually led to the arrests. While most of the characters are based on real people, there are certain fictional elements and characters added for dramatic purpose. But yes, the crew indeed made as many messed-up, silly choices as they did in the series, and that was precisely why the locals thought that there was more to the story than the spreading of ashes. It was their inability to launch the boat that made the locals extremely suspicious of them.
Louie, known as “Witness X” during the case, played a crucial role in guiding the police. The names used in the series are the codenames that were used during the drug trafficking operation. The camper van full of meth was discovered by Detective Constable Thomas Nankivell when he was returning home from work.
At the end, we find out that Blaze (real name: Selaima Fakaosilea) was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Thugga’s (real name: Jermiah Lusitini) attempt to flee turned futile after he was sent back to New Zealand from Bangkok and was eventually handed a 25-year and 7-month prison sentence. After planning to settle in Cambodia, changing his mind all of a sudden, and eventually flying to Manila, Mack (Malachi Tuilotolava) was deported back to New Zealand and sentenced to 24 years in prison. Tall Guy (Ulakai Fakaosilea) received a sentence of 22 years and 9 months, while Gravel (Amoki Fonua) was sentenced to 22 years. Stevie (Stevie Cullen) pleaded not guilty, stating that he was on a spiritual journey, and he was handed a 27-year sentence. Sam (Ka Yip Wan) was also arrested, and he has to serve a 23-year sentence. Surprisingly, Cai (Chin Chan Tsai) continued to operate at large, though the man heading ‘The Company’ (also known as Sam Gor, an Asia-Pacific International Crime syndicate), Tse Chi Lop, was arrested from Amsterdam airport on January 22, 2021, and has been extradited to Australia after years of legal battle. However, the large-scale drug operation in Southeast Asia continues as per usual.