Money launderer tried to hide cash in clothes

By Kieran Campbell

File photo / David White
File photo / David White

A Lithuanian man jailed for his involvement in laundering more than $2 million in drug money tried to smuggle the cash out of New Zealand by hiding it in his clothes.

Donatas Jukna, 29, was sentenced in Auckland District Court today to two years and nine months imprisonment for money laundering four years ago when he arrived in Auckland with an associate, Martynas Cikas.

The pair was under covert surveillance by detectives investigating a global crime syndicate smuggling drugs into New Zealand.

From when they arrived on May 20, 2008, Jukna and Cikas were being watched by undercover police, who observed the Lithuanians visit financial institutions where they either remitted money overseas or changed cash for foreign currencies.

The money was alleged to be from Auckland crime kingpin Ronald Terrence Brown to pay his accused drug supplier in Europe.

Brown is currently serving an 11-year prison term after pleading guilty to eight charges related to importing drugs.

New Zealand Customs search the check-in luggage of Jukna and Cikas as the pair boarded a flight to Frankfurt on June 5, 2008.

Customs found more than $320,000 in United States, European and New Zealand currency hidden inside pockets of clothes, inside shoes, in toilet bags, a tennis bag and a specially-built concealment in the bottom of Cikas' bag.

The cash and two fake passports were seized but Customs officials did not interact with the Cikas or Jukna, who were allowed to continue oblivious to the search carried out on their luggage.

The pair was still under surveillance as part of the international crime investigation.

Between Jukna and Cikas and a third associate, more than $2 million was sent via telegraphic transfers, exchanged into foreign currency or located in their possession.

Cikas and Jukna's trip in 2008 totalled more than $880,000.

Jukna was arrested at the German border on an Interpol warrant in April this year and extradited to face charges in New Zealand.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 25 Oct 2014 06:05:58 Processing Time: 550ms