Meth importers pleads guilty but requests sentence to be deferred

By Imran Ali -
The largest methamphetamine haul in the country worth an estimated $448 million was found on Ninety Mile Beach and at Totara North in June last year. Photo / Supplied
The largest methamphetamine haul in the country worth an estimated $448 million was found on Ninety Mile Beach and at Totara North in June last year. Photo / Supplied

A man who has pleaded guilty to his role in the largest seizure of methamphetamine in the country has requested his convictions be delayed so he can complete drug and alcohol counselling while in prison.

Amoki Matoto Fonua, 32, pleaded guilty yesterday in the High Court at Whangarei yesterday to one charge of importing meth into the country in June last year, one of participating in an organised criminal group with others, and another of possession of meth.

The charges of importing methamphetamine and possessing methamphetamine for supply carry maximum sentences of life imprisonment.

Fonua's pleas come four months after a man found with 442kg of meth was jailed for 12 years after he admitted charges of importing methamphetamine and possessing methamphetamine for supply.

The man, who apologised to all New Zealanders before he was jailed, was given permanent name suppression.

He and Fonua were involved in the biggest methamphetamine haul in New Zealand on Ninety Mile Beach in June last year.

Police seized 448kg of the 494kg of the drug in a campervan at Totara North while the rest was found buried in sand dunes on the beach.

The seizure had an estimated value of $448 million and outstripped the 334kg seized in the country in 2015.

In court yesterday, Fonua requested, through his lawyer Samuel Wimsett, that Justice Kit Toogood defer the convictions until his sentencing on June 2.

Mr Wimsett said Fonua was doing drug, alcohol, and gambling courses while on remand and wished to complete them before he re-appeared for sentencing.

Fonua was remanded in custody and Justice Toogood ordered a pre-sentence report.

Five others before the court — Ulakai Fakaosilea, 26, Jermiah Iusitini 27, Malachi Tuilotolava, 25, Ka Yip Wan, 26, and Stevie Norua Cullen, 34 — pleaded not guilty late last year and elected a trial by jury.

Their trial will likely take place in April next year.

Crown solicitor Mike Smith told Justice Toogood he was not aware of any pre trial applications.

The five men will reappear for a callover on August 3.

Cullen and Lusitini are facing charges of importing meth, possession for supply and participating in an organised criminal group.

Fakaosilea and Wan are charged with importing and possession for supply, while Tuilotolava is facing charges of importing, possession for supply, participating in an organised criminal group and money laundering.

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