Business 'a front' for smuggling

By Rob Kidd, Jared Savage

The man, in his 30s, was jailed for five years and nine months after a jury found him guilty of bringing the Class-B MDMA powder into the country. Photo / iStock
The man, in his 30s, was jailed for five years and nine months after a jury found him guilty of bringing the Class-B MDMA powder into the country. Photo / iStock

A million-dollar businessman has won a bid to keep his identity secret despite using his company as a front to smuggle 5kg of Ecstasy.

The man, in his 30s, was jailed for five years and nine months after a jury found him guilty of bringing the Class-B MDMA powder into the country hidden among a shipment of legitimate goods.

But now two of the country's major supermarkets that sell his products will never know they are doing business with a convicted drug smuggler.

Crown prosecutor Robin McCoubrey argued there was no evidence of extreme hardship and "any damage to his business is his doing". But Judge Evangelos Thomas disagreed.

He suppressed details of the man's name, his business and the products it sold to protect "innocent third parties" associated with the defendant.

"Investors put substantial money into the business but it also includes employees who would face the prospect of restructure and job loss," the judge said.

He accepted "some might consider that an affront to justice" but he could not ignore the plight of those inadvertently caught up in the case.

However, the large-scale drug import is not the first time the businessman has been in trouble with the law and the Herald on Sunday can now reveal further details of his chequered history.

He has previously been found guilty of immigration offences. Before that, he was acquitted of committing an aggravated robbery with two patched gang members.

The Immigration Service declined to comment on whether he would be deported at the end of his prison sentence.

Details of his most recent criminal offending were revealed when the businessman was sentenced in the Auckland District Court to five years and nine months in prison.

On September 19, 2014, a shipping container arrived in Auckland with 5kg of MDMA powder intricately concealed inside the packaging of the legitimate imported goods.

Testing showed it had a purity of 71 per cent.

Of interest to the police was the fact the businessman had previously received a package of spare "bolt seals" used to secure shipping containers.

Once broken, bolt seals cannot be re-used so any tampering before the shipments are cleared by Customs can be detected.

When he was arrested, the man was found near the shipping terminal in possession of the bolt.

"The significance is one bore markings and a number strikingly similar to the one that arrived in Auckland," Judge Thomas said.

"The only available inference I can draw from the bolt is that it would have permitted a person with that to access the container and reseal it and possibly escape detection," the judge said.

The court heard the business was used as a front to smuggle the drugs was worth $1.4m.

Judge Thomas said the man's precise role was not proven at trial but he was "far more than just a catcher".

"I can't say you were the mastermind or at the top of this tree.

"But you were prepared to use your business as a front. You were prepared to risk your business - a valuable successful business, your anchor here in New Zealand - to [import the drugs].

"You would have only done that if you were expecting a significant share in the returns," he said.

The defendant was facing a jail term of more than six years.

Judge Thomas cut nine months from his sentence because he "contributed in many ways to the community".

- Herald on Sunday

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