Ignorance of meth lab pleaded

By Imran Ali -

A Northlander arrested during a major drug bust told a jury he had no knowledge methamphetamine was being manufactured at a rural property despite driving to and from the house with the supervisor of the illegal operation.

Kiata Sonny Pene denied one charge of manufacturing meth and another of participating in an organised criminal group and elected to give evidence in the High Court at Whangarei yesterday after the conclusion of the Crown case.

Also on trial are Evanda Harding and Casey Rewha. Another person, Tyson Harding, who faced one charge of possession of meth for supply, was discharged on Tuesday.

Rewha is facing only one charge of participating in an organised criminal group. She was also charged with conspiracy to supply meth.

At least 9kg of meth, with a street value of $3.2 million to $4.5 million, was cooked in Taipuha Rd, Waiotira, between Whangarei and Paparoa, between September and December 2014, under the overall supervision of Brownie Harding, who will be sentenced next month.

Pene told the jury that although he carried gas bottles, a bag of ice and water to the Taipuha Rd house, and agreed to drive Brownie Harding - the supervisor of the meth lab - to and from the property, he did not know meth was being manufactured.

Pene said he thought Brownie Harding wanted to meet his friends, see his father Joseph Harding, or wanted to organise a party at the rural address.

He knew Brownie Harding as a "drinker" and not someone who did drugs, Pene said.

Evanda Harding and Casey Rewha elected not to either give or call evidence. The Crown and defence lawyers will deliver closing addresses this morning.

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