By Denise Piper , stuff.co.nz
A man and a woman are facing jail after being found guilty of importing meth discovered during New Zealand’s largest ever drugs bust.
Stevie Cullen and Selaima Fakaosilea were both charged with importing methamphetamine and participating in an organised criminal group, charges which carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
The jury found they were guilty on all four charges after a six-week trial.
The charges relate to the landing of 501kg of methamphetamine at Ninety Mile Beach in the Far North in June 2016, the country’s largest ever drug bust.
The jury of eight women and four men have been considering the case in the High Court in Whangārei for the last six weeks.
There were tears in the public gallery as the guilty verdicts were delivered, from family members of Fakaosilea who had attended much of the trial.
Fakaosilea said to her family “I love you” as she was lead away, while Cullen remained quiet.
The trial officially began on April 29, but problems with empanneling the jury and the sickness of jury members meant several days were lost in the trial.
Over the last six weeks, the jury has heard evidence from nearly 50 witnesses, including 44 from the Crown. Cullen also took to the stand.
The Crown argued Cullen, known by the codename Marvel, was in the Far North in the lead-up to the import, carrying out key activities for the organised criminal group, including researching marine conditions, booking hotel rooms and helping with the boat launch.
The Crown argued Fakaosilea, known by the codename Blaze, played a logistics role from Auckland, organising the hiring of vehicles, obtaining toolboxes and overseeing the distribution of drugs for “buckets” of cash.
But Cullen’s defence counsel Annabel Maxwell-Scott argued that while Cullen was in the Far North, he thought he was on a spiritual journey and a boys’ trip to spread a brother’s ashes.
Fakaosilea’s defence counsel Maria Pecotic said there was no evidence she knew what was going on from Auckland and, while she had pleaded guilty to later distributing Class A drugs, she had no involvement with the import.
Both were remanded in custody for sentencing, which will take place on July 12 at the High Court in Whangārei.
The end of the trial wraps up a three-year investigation by the police’s National Organised Crime Group, after the country’s largest ever drug bust.
Six people have already pleaded guilty to their roles in the importation.
If sold in 1kg lots, the 501kg of meth would be worth between $130 million and $150 million.
Justice Christine Gordon QC thanked the jury for their time and conscientiousness in the trial, which was supposed to last four to five weeks.