8 Dec 2011

Man charged after cocaine-smuggler's death

10:49 pm on 8 December 2011

A man has been charged with importing cocaine following the death of a Colombian woman who died in New Zealand after a bag of drugs burst inside her body.

Police say the arrest of Peter Philip Leaitua, 40, on Wednesday follows an investigation into the death of Sorlinda Aristizabal-Vega who had flown to Auckland from Argentina in September this year.

The 37-year-old became ill after the package of cocaine burst inside her and she later died at Auckland Hospital.

A post-mortem found she had been carrying more than 20 packages of cocaine worth between $120,000 and $190,000.

Mr Leaitua appeared in court on Thursday and was remanded to appear next Tuesday.

Detective Sergeant Lloyd Schmid says while he can confirm Mr Leaitua is related to the woman, he can't comment on whether the relationship is by marriage or by blood.

In November, Interpol in Buenos Aires requested help to find Mr Leiatua who is wanted by police in Argentina over drug-related crimes.

Police in New Zealand say his arrest is not related to that notice, but have advised Interpol that he has been located.