Jared Savage

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

Interpol catches alleged money launderer

An international fugitive wanted for allegedly laundering more than $500,000 cash has been arrested in Europe four years after leaving New Zealand.

Donatas Jukna arrived in Auckland with Martynas Cikas in May 2008 and came under covert surveillance by detectives in Operation Keyboard, who were investigating a global crime syndicate smuggling drugs into New Zealand.

The Lithuanian pair were followed to financial institutions where, under false names, they allegedly transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars to overseas bank accounts or exchanged the cash for foreign currency.

In the name of Robertas Masaitis, Jukna allegedly converted $214,000 in five transactions.

Police say the cash was from Ronald Terrence Brown, considered a godfather of the criminal world in Auckland, to pay his alleged drug supplier in Europe, a man called Rokas Karpavicius.

When Jukna and Cikas flew to Frankfurt on June 2008, New Zealand Customs' staff searched their luggage and found two false passports and $321,000 cash in numerous currencies.

The police seized the passports and money but let the pair go, as any arrests would have jeopardised the ongoing Operation Keyboard.

Brown, 66, has since been sentenced to 11 years in prison after pleading guilty to eight charges related to the importation and supply of Ecstasy, methamphetamine and LSD. He also admitted using a false passport and laundering more than $4 million over three years.

However, Jukna was arrested last month at the German border when a "red notice" posted with Interpol alerted authorities to the charge he faced in New Zealand.

Two detectives flew to Frankfurt last month to collect the 29-year-old. He was charged with money laundering when he appeared in the Auckland District Court.

Jukna is the second international Operation Keyboard arrest after Rokas Karpavicius was detained by Latvian authorities in December.

Karpavicius was charged with conspiracy to import cocaine in 1999 but escaped overseas two years later while free on a $100,000 bail bond. The Lithuanian was never caught, but was named in the trial of Ronald Brown co-accused in late 2010.

His fingerprints were allegedly found on a Harry Potter book couriered from Spain to Auckland which had the Class A drug LSD hidden in its spine.

But he was finally arrested after 10 years at large when Latvian authorities were alerted by an Interpol "red notice". He is in custody as the Crown attempts to extradite him to New Zealand to face trial.

DONATAS JUKNA
May 2008: Flew into Auckland and allegedly exchanged $214,000 in five transactions.
June 2008: Had $321,000 seized from his luggage flying out of country.
April 2012: Arrested in Germany after Interpol "red notice" and flown back to New Zealand to face money laundering charge.

- NZ Herald

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