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Senior Mongrel Mob member has $1.17m of assets seized

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More than a million dollar in assets has been seized from a senior member of the Maketu Mongrel Mob. PHOTO/FILE
More than a million dollar in assets has been seized from a senior member of the Maketu Mongrel Mob. PHOTO/FILE

More than a million dollar in assets, including a 123ha forestry block, has been seized from a senior member of the Maketu Mongrel Mob.

In a statement, police said they'd secured the forfeiture of $1.17 million in property under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act, from Valentine Nicholas, who lives in the Bay of Plenty and was president of the Maketu chapter of the Mongrel Mob.

This follows a High Court judgment issued last week on the back of two criminal trials where Mr Nicholas was facing charges of money laundering.

Mr Nicholas was found not guilty at a second trial after the first trial ended in a hung jury.
Justice Hinton in the Tauranga High Court found the senior gang member was unable to show evidence of a "legitimate source of income" for a number of years.

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It ruled assets, to the value of $1.17m, had been gained through criminal offending.

Those assets included the 123ha forestry block known as the Caravel Block.

In a written judgement the judge said that although the 123ha block of land in Gisborne was not in Mr Nicholas' name, there was evidence he had purchased the land.

Part of that purchase included $90,300 worth of $20 notes which smelled strongly of cannabis according to a bank teller.

The judge agreed with police allegations that Mr Nicholas had received at least $412,000 in unexplained cash income over a period of almost five years.

Mr Nicholas argued the money came from success in gambling and the buying and selling of cars but the judge found there was no evidence he made money from either pastime.

Items found during the search of his property in 2008 also indicated he was involved in drug dealing operations, Judge Hinton said. More than $8000 in $20 dollar notes was found as were a significant number of small zip lock bags and a specialist vacuum sealer and bags.

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"I found it very strange that associates would be sent to buy specific bags if they were just for standard household use...the sealer and bags would more likely have been acquired for cash storage and it is likely the ounce-sized bags to which the first respondent [Mr Nicholas] referred, were for cannabis packing, for purposes of sale."

His position as president of a gang which police alleged was heavily involved in the distribution of drugs, including cannabis, also supported the police claims, the judge said.

"A person in a senior gang position such as the first respondent is more likely to have a hands-off approach to the direct sale and storage of illegal drugs, limiting the risk of being apprehended will illegal drugs in his possession."

Judge Hinton said the act did not require a conviction or even a charge to be laid not was it necessary to show a direct involvement in significant criminal activity, indirect involvement was enough.

"I find it is more likely than not that the Caravel Block was derived directly or indirectly from significant criminal activity and that the significant criminal activity was the supply of cannabis and/or money laundering."

The judge agreed with the police's submission that he benefited by $1.17 million and ordered the forfeiture of the Caravel forestry block. Once the block was sold, the sale amount would be deducted from $1.17 million.

Detective Inspector Paul Hampton said it was a decision that would help protect the Bay of Plenty community.

"Police believe the forfeiture of these assets will have a significant impact on preventing harm in the Bay of Plenty community by ensuring profits from criminal activity cannot be reinvested into future criminal activity.

"The judgement is a significant judgement and a reminder to all that absence of a criminal conviction does not prohibit the successful forfeiture of assets under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act".

- Bay of Plenty Times

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