Jared Savage

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

Gym at centre of cocaine ring claim

Bert Jury (left) and Kindness Agwu in the Auckland District Court. Photos / Sarah Ivey
Bert Jury (left) and Kindness Agwu in the Auckland District Court. Photos / Sarah Ivey

An Auckland gym was a link in a cocaine supply chain that smuggled the drug from Argentina to Auckland, a jury has been told.

More than 2.4kg of the drug was seized by Customs in February 2010, and more than $470,000 was sent overseas in three months.

"A lot more [cocaine] got through. A lot of money was dispatched overseas," Crown prosecutor Bruce Northwood told the jury yesterday in his opening address at the trial of three men in the Auckland District Court.

Kindness Onyedikachi Agwu, Bert Leonard Noel Jury and a gym owner pleaded not guilty to 24 charges of importing, possessing and supplying the class-A drug.

The jury was told Agwu was the "boss" of the New Zealand end of the operation, but acted on overseas instructions from someone called "Chairman".

The Crown says Agwu arranged shipments of cocaine from South America and recruited an Auckland man - who in turn recruited his wife and others - to organise fake addresses to which the packages could be mailed.

The parcels were then redirected to family and friends of the husband-and-wife team, who have name suppression.

The family also arranged for money to be sent overseas.

Western Union transfers of $470,292 were sent to Argentina, Ecuador, Australia, Brazil and Togo between November 2009 and February 2010.

Mr Northwood said Agwu also worked with an Argentine national, Martin Daniel Finkelstein, to smuggle cocaine.

The drugs were stored at an Auckland gym, described by Mr Northwood as a "discreet base" where the cocaine was handed to the next link in the supply chain.

He said two men known as "Long Hair" and "Silver Hair" would meet at the gym to buy large amounts of the drug - up to 20 ounces (570 grams).

The Crown says "Silver Hair" is Bert Jury, who is alleged to have paid $6000 for each ounce.

The gym owner has name suppression until the end of the trial.

Emails and text messages form a crucial part of the case - led by Detective Sergeant Geoff Baber - as will the evidence of the husband and wife who police say worked for Agwu. The couple have been sentenced and are in prison.

Lawyers for the three accused made opening addresses yesterday.

Peter Kaye asked the jury to question the evidence against Kindness Agwu, who was out of the country for three months during the period of the alleged offending.

"What has he done to bring the drug to New Zealand? What acts has he done to assist those sales in New Zealand?"

On behalf of the gym owner, Ron Mansfield said his client worked hard and was not involved in drugs. "Never has been".

He said the Crown case relied heavily on the evidence of "husband and wife criminals" whose credibility would be attacked.

Maria Pecotic said Bert Jury was simply a regular at the gym, and was never in possession of cocaine.

She said the two star Crown witnesses, who were expected to give evidence today, were "simply lying".

The trial in front of Judge Roy Wade is expected to take four weeks.

IN THE DOCK

Bert Jury
Pleaded not guilty to eight charges of possessing cocaine for supply and supplying the drug.

Kindness Agwu
Pleaded not guilty to 16 charges of importing and selling cocaine.

The gym owner
Pleaded not guilty to six charges of selling cocaine. Has interim name suppression.

- NZ Herald

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