NZ drug syndicate had insiders at Auckland Airport to import US meth, court hears

Kuo hā ha toko tolu Tonga he fakamaau'anga lahi 'Aokalani' tukuaki'i ki he'enau hū mai ha faito'o konatapu mefi mei 'Amelika ki Nu'u Sila. Ko e kau tangata ni ko Tevita Matangi Fangupo, Tevita Sitanilei Kulu pea mo Toni Rajendra Finau. Kuo faka'ikai'i 'e he kau tangata' ni 'a honau tukuaki'i'.

By Edward Gay, stuff.co.nz

The Crown says a syndicate that was importing methamphetamine into New Zealand from the US, had contacts working for them inside Customs or New Zealand Post at Auckland International Airport.

Tevita Matangi Fangupo, Tevita Sitanilei Kulu and Toni Rajendra Finau are on trial at the High Court in Auckland.

The three have denied charges including importing methamphetamine and cocaine into New Zealand.

In her closing address at the High Court in Auckland, the Crown prosecutor Fiona Culliney outlined the roles of the three men.

She said Fangupo and Kulu headed the partnership.

Kulu, who spent much of his life in California before moving back to New Zealand, had the US contacts and was sourcing the drugs, she said, while Fangupoo organised addresses to get the drugs sent to in Auckland.

She stated that Fangupoo also had contacts with a major gang in New Zealand to distribute the class A drug.

The drugs would come through Customs at Auckland International Airport.

Culliney reminded the jurors that a Customs expert had given evidence about packages being monitored by authorities as they travelled along conveyor belts at the airport.

However, staff members were not able to catch every package.

There was also evidence that the syndicate had an insider.

Intercepted messaging between members of the group included a message from Kulu during a discussion about a package. Kulu said: “We got boys that work in there”.

In the discussion about a missing package Kulu tells another syndicate member that he is “waiting on the lunch call” from a man he identifies as “Tama” – meaning boy.

In another exchange, Kulu said he had information about a missing package.

“They said it’s in Customs but they didn’t know the reason why it’s there. It’s there with some other boxes. They’re trying to figure out if they can grab it but I don’t know.”

Culliney said the meaning of the intercepted communications was clear.

“They had an inside man who was able to catch the packages and pick them up before the authorities knew what was going on.”

She said there was also evidence that the syndicate were getting nervous as packages were confiscated by authorities.

In one of the messages Culliney said Fangupo talks of growing fear as methamphetamine was being sold to the gangs before it had safely arrived in the country.

“He’s basically saying: ‘I’m stressed, the [gang] is coming after me, where is the meth? Where is it?'”

Another intercepted message concerns plans for a deal with the gang involving 100kg of methamphetamine – approximately worth $15 million.

“Methamphetamine, as you will no doubt know, is an extremely harmful and dangerous drug. It is extremely sought after and as such, fetches a high price.”

Culliney said this case was not about the damage the drug does in the community but the business side of it.

She said Finau also played an important role. He was the middleman and responsible for finding buyers for the drugs.

“At the end of the day, there’s no value in the drug if it sits idle at an address of one of these two men – the value is in splitting it up and moving it on.”

The trial, before Justice Mathew Downs and a jury, is expected to hear closing addresses from defence lawyers next week.

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