Tongan coach jailed for drug plot

By Edward Gay

Angus Naupoto. Photo / Supplied
Angus Naupoto. Photo / Supplied

The man in charge of the Tongan team at the 2007 Rugby World Cup has been jailed for his part in a conspiracy to import a massive amount of P that never existed.

Angus Naupoto, 36, was the coach of the Tongan team. He has also served as secretary for the Tongan rugby union.

Naupoto was sentenced today in the High Court at Auckland to two years and four months in prison after earlier pleading guilty to conspiring to import 20kg of methamphetamine into New Zealand.

In sentencing, Justice Sarah Katz said Naupoto and his associates were fooled into believing a 400kg stock-pile of methamphetamine was sitting in Tonga.

Naupoto flew to New Zealand to source buyers and arrange for a 20kg sample to be shipped to New Zealand for a price of $10,000.

He was told by underworld associates in Tonga that the skipper of the boat was called Johan and Johan's wife was being held captive as security for the drugs.

Johan, his ship and the class A drugs never arrived.

At one point Naupoto called Johan's wife and threatened to fly back to Tonga and kill her if she did not reveal where her husband was.

But there never was a 400kg stockpile, or a 20kg sample and the skipper and his wife were made up characters in a ruse designed to fool Naupoto and his associates.

Justice Katz said that had the drugs been real Naupoto would be staring down the barrel of a sentence in excess of 20 years.

"But the fact the drugs did not exist does not mean the offending is not serious."

In sentencing, the judge took into account Naupoto's early guilty plea, the time served on bail and his previous good record.

"You advised the probation officer that imprisonment in New Zealand is not the main penalty. The main penalty is when you return to Tonga, your church and your community and when you have to face the people you have let down."

Naupoto's lawyer Nalesoni Tupou said his client had suffered a "huge fall from grace".

"This is a man who travelled the world with his rugby and is now going to be confined to Tonga."

He said at one point his client drew a salary of over $100,000 from the IRB as a "performance manager" but those days are over.

Mr Tupou said his client had lost his construction business in Tonga that closed once he was arrested.

Naupoto's associates: Peter Lawrence Tanginoa, Douglas David Afeaki and David Charles Mafi were found guilty of methamphetamine conspiracy charges last month and will be sentenced next month.

Another associate, William Wolfgramm, pleaded guilty for his part in the import and was sentenced to a period of home detention.

At the time of the arrests, Detective Inspector Bruce Good said the Tongan "drug syndicate" had gone to great lengths to convince the potential buyers in New Zealand that the product was genuine.

"They made blocks to look like a [methamphetamine] stockpile then put rock salt on it," said Mr Good. "On top of the rock salt, they put a small amount of locally purchased methamphetamine.

"So when [the buyers] asked for a sample, they gave them a shard of genuine ice, methamphetamine."

- APNZ

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