A man found with 448kg of methamphetamine - part of the largest haul ever found in this country after it was landed on Ninety Mile Beach - has been jailed for 12 years.
The man was given permanent name suppression when he appeared for sentencing in the High Court at Whangarei today after pleading guilty to charges of importing methamphetamine and possessing methamphetamine for supply. The latter charge carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Police recovered a whopping 494kg of methamphetamine on June 19 this year, after it was found on Ninety Mile Beach. The majority of the class A drug - 448kg - was found in a campervan at Totara North while the rest was found buried in sand dunes at the beach.
The haul - the largest ever discovered in New Zealand - has a value of $494 million, and outstripped the 334kg of meth seized in New Zealand last year.
Today Justice John Fogerty said a starting point for the man's offending was 30 years' jail, but he gave him discounts for a number of factors, including his remorse and early guilty plea.
Justice Fogerty said although the man was not high up in the chain, he was nevertheless a trusted man within the drug importation gang. The man was the first person to plead guilty over the record drugs haul.
Meanwhile, six Auckland men arrested in connection with the methamphetamine haul have pleaded not guilty to a raft of charges and elected trial by jury.
They are Ulakai Fakaosilea, 26, Amoki Matoto Fonua, 32, Jermiah Iusitini, 27, Malachi Tuilotolava, 25, and Ka Yip Wan, 26, and Stevie Norua Cullen, 34. Interim name suppression continues for a seventh man.
Cullen and Iusitini are facing charges of importing meth, possession of meth for supply, and participating in an organised criminal group. Fakaosilea, Fonua and Wan are charged with importing meth and possession for supply while Tuilotolava is facing charges of importing meth, possession for supply, participating in an organised criminal group and money laundering.
They will reappear in the High Court on February 2 next year when a trial date is expected to be set.
For more articles from this region, go to Northern Advocate