Notorious inmate 'part of drug ring'

By Beck Vass

One of New Zealand's most notorious criminals is allegedly involved in an elaborate drug ring which saw police this week reveal they had seized enough chemicals to make more than $5 million of P.

The drug ring, run from behind prison walls, is said to involve several high-profile inmates who will have further charges laid against them by police.

Twelve people were arrested on Tuesday - eight of them prisoners - after raids on 23 properties and at Auckland Prison at Paremoremo and the Spring Hill Corrections Facility in Waikato.

The Herald has learned that one of the prisoners is Arthur Taylor, an inmate with a lengthy criminal history, which includes drug and armed robbery charges and several prison escapes.

Taylor has outsmarted prison officers several times in the past, and is said to have got past cellphone bans by smuggling them into prison to help him with his schemes.

It has not been revealed how the inmates organised the drug ring, but National Party Corrections spokesman Simon Power has blamed a delay in cellphone blocking technology.

However, it is understood that prison guards are also under suspicion.

Taylor made headlines last year when he claimed a prison guard smuggled out his frozen semen so he could father a daughter with his wife.

In one of his high-profile escape bids, Taylor fled prison escorts while an associate pointed an air pistol at them as he was being escorted from Rimutaka Prison to a family group conference in 1995. He was found a short time later.

But in what is possibly his most infamous escape, in June 1998, Taylor and three others including another notorious convict, Graeme Burton, attracted nationwide attention when they escaped from Paremoremo Prison.

After being caught on the Coromandel Peninsula about five days later, Taylor phoned the Holmes Show to discuss the escape.

Even back then, Taylor had a public profile after learning up on the law and defending himself in an earlier court case.

He received praise in the Court of Appeal from Justice Ted Thomas, who described him as superior to some counsel.

In this week's drug bust, police allege the eight inmates conspired together to import the Class A controlled chemical Contact NT from China, with help from the group on the outside. Officers would not confirm how the group came to their attention but Customs New Zealand intercepted 20kg of the Contact NT - enough to make 5kg of P, which would have a street value of about $5 million.

The Department of Corrections has refused to comment on how the prisoners could have been involved, saying it is a police matter.

Police, too, are remaining tight-lipped on details, saying that will form part of their evidence which is now before the courts.

They are also keeping quiet on how they will manage having eight prisoners appear in one court later this month.

Further arrests in relation to the drug ring are expected.

- NZ Herald

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