Jared Savage is the New Zealand Herald's investigations editor.

Underworld kingpin sentenced on drug charges

Max Beckham has been jailed for more than 13 years for after being found guilty of serious drug charges, including conspiracy to manufacture and supply methamphetamine. Photo / APN
Max Beckham has been jailed for more than 13 years for after being found guilty of serious drug charges, including conspiracy to manufacture and supply methamphetamine. Photo / APN

Underworld kingpin and Northland businessman Max John Beckham has been jailed for 13 years and six months on top of his current sentence for kidnapping.

The wealthy businessman - who headed a methamphetamine syndicate from his lifestyle block in Northland - was sentenced at the High Court in Auckland today.

The 63-year-old faced a possible life sentence after being found guilty in April of serious drug charges, including conspiracy to manufacture and supply methamphetamine, supply of methamphetamine, cocaine, cannabis oil and Ecstasy and money laundering.

His wife, Jenny Maree Taylor was senteneced to nine months home detention on two charges of money laundering.

Just one of Beckham's charges was the supply of 2kg of P - worth $2 million.

He has also been found guilty of kidnapping - after using a stun gun on the victim - committing a crime with a firearm and perverting the course of justice.

Beckham was a successful businessman who used to own the ITM store in Mangonui, ran a property development company and hand-planted a large olive orchard.

He was also a crime boss who made millions of dollars in a drug ring which he ruled ruthlessly.

Auckland drug detectives found $865,720 cash in a Ford Territory and his home when Beckham was arrested in December 2008.

Assets and cash worth more than $10 million were frozen by the High Court, including the cash haul, two lifestyle properties with a combined value of $1.1 million, a $750,000 West Auckland home and a $630,000 inner-city apartment.

Two late-model Ford Falcons have also been seized - one with the registration plate B4DBOY - as well as a fishing vessel called Unity.

Beckham was the main target of Operation Jivaro, led by Detective Sergeant Lloyd Schmid of the Auckland drug squad. Over six months police tapped his cellphone, bugged his car and tailed him.

At the time of his arrest, Beckham was a significant figure in the methamphetamine trade in Northland and Auckland, police said.

Bugged conversations in his Ford Territory were frank - and in some cases sexually explicit - with young women he was meeting.

A young Asian woman was heard talking about 23 "sets" of pseudoephedrine being smuggled into the country. A "set" is 1000 tablets of the class-C drug, which is the main ingredient of P.

The jury also heard conversations of a sexual nature between the two.

Beckham defended the charges. A core part of his defence was a personal attack on Mr Schmid, who was also the officer in charge of Operation Manu, which busted a P ring running from SkyCity casino in 2006.

During the Operation Jivaro trial, defence lawyer Murray Gibson questioned whether Mr Schmid had been the subject of an internal police inquiry into allegations he spoke to an informant inappropriately.

Crown prosecutor David Johnstone told the jury the inquiry cleared Mr Schmid of any wrongdoing.

"There was no impeachment of his character. Quite the opposite. He is a police officer who acted with integrity," he said.

While Beckham was found guilty of 24 charges - and acquitted of 29 others - co-accused Paul Yu Hung Szeto was found not guilty of money- laundering and methamphetamine supply charges after the seven-week trial. But the sickness beneficiary with three luxury cars worth $250,000 was evicted from his taxpayer-subsidised state home after a Weekend Herald investigation.

In June, Beckham was found guilty in the Whangarei District Court of kidnapping, committing a crime with a firearm, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. He stood beside Mark Rogers, who was also found guilty of kidnapping and committing a crime with a firearm, and Matthew Woller, convicted of perverting the course of justice.

What the jury didn't know was that Rogers was already serving 11 years after pleading guilty to supplying 2kg of methamphetamine - one of the charges Beckham was later convicted of in the Auckland trial.

At 4.20am on August 18, 2008, Beckham and Rogers went to the home of Eugene Young, who was woken by barking dogs. Rogers pistol-whipped Young in the face.

"I fell to the ground in the mud and by then Max came up and jumped on me and used a Taser on my neck and shoulders," Young told the jury.

A pillowcase was put over his head and taped. The pair demanded Young give back cannabis they claimed he had stolen from Beckham's house, or pay $25,000.

A month later, the Black Power-linked Woller arranged a meeting with Beckham and Lance Young, Eugene's older brother, telling Young to advise his brother to "clam up".

- NZ Herald

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