Meth-making 'puppet' jailed for 9.5 years

By Imran Ali -
Evanda Harding  during his sentencing in the High Court at Whangarei on charges of manufacturing meth and participating in an organised criminal group. Photo / NZME
Evanda Harding during his sentencing in the High Court at Whangarei on charges of manufacturing meth and participating in an organised criminal group. Photo / NZME

A Whangarei teen treated as his father's "dogsbody" has been jailed for more than nine years, for his role in the country's largest methamphetamine-making operation.

Evanda Harding, 18, was sentenced in the High Court at Whangarei yesterday after a jury last month found him guilty of participating in an organised criminal group and two charges of manufacturing meth.

Harding had pleaded guilty at the start of his trial on June 27 to possession of meth for supply and two charges of possession of pseudoephedrine for supply.

Justice Simon Moore said he accepted Evanda Harding was not one of the principal offenders and his experience in the drug manufacturing operation was modest but he knew what was going on and continued nonetheless.

His involvement, the judge said, contributed to the scourge and misery meth has already had on our community.

Justice Moore sentenced him to nine years and six months. He did not impose a minimum period of imprisonment.

Two others- Casey Rewha and Kiata Pene - were also found guilty by a jury on three charges and will be sentenced in November.

Harding was involved in a clandestine drug manufacturing operation where at least 9kg of meth with a street value of between $3.2 and $4.5 million was cooked over 10 weeks in a property in Taipuha Rd at Waiotira, between Whangarei and Paparoa, from September to December 2014.

Police raided the property and arrested 14 people after watching drug cooking and distribution activities for seven months during their covert investigation dubbed Operation Easter.

The Waiotira house where more than 9kg of methamphetamine was cooked.
The Waiotira house where more than 9kg of methamphetamine was cooked.

Harding was arrested on the North Shore where police stopped the vehicle he was in with another person, and recovered more than 2kg of meth manufactured at Waiotira.

His lawyer, Maria Pecotic, described the then 17-year-old Evanda Harding as a "dogsbody" and a "mere puppet" for his powerful and domineering father, Brownie Harding, the ringleader of the drug outfit, who is to be sentenced today.

Ms Pecotic submitted a letter Evanda Harding's mother, Casey Rewha, wrote to the court but Crown prosecutor Richard Annandale said given Rewha's role in the drug operation, her correspondence needed to be viewed with circumspection.

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