Three patched Mongrel Mob members and five associates are on trial accused of drug dealing and related offences involving tens of thousands of dollars of P and cannabis.
Among those on trial in Hamilton District Court are Frank Amadeus Milosevic, 52, his sons Slobodan Rahoroi Milosevic, 30, and Te Oherere Lucky Boy Milosevic, 28, his partner Irene Raki, 52, and Slobodan's partner Raiha Tawera, 32, all from Kawerau.
Frank Milosevic has pleaded not guilty to 22 charges, which include alleged cannabis and methamphetamine dealing, and money laundering charges with his partner Raki which relates to 46 cash deposits and various cash purchases between 2015 and 2018.
The purchases allegedly included a $43,000 van, a $90,000 Ford Raptor and a $23,000 Harley Davidson motorcycle.
Slobodan Milosevic has denied 20 charges.
This includes three joint charges with Tawera of money laundering relating to $54,000 of electronic bank payments, $104,894 of cash deposits and various cash purchases, mostly relating to renovations to their home.
Te Ohorere Milosevic has denied cannabis cultivation and firearms charges.
Also on trial are Starlight Whitumarama Manuel, 36, from Whakatāne, Keith Pryor, 48, from Paengaroa and 47-year-old Gisborne man Lawrence Glen Te Kira.
Manuel is defending 17 charges, including firearm charges, Pryor has denied cannabis and P dealing charges, while Te Kira's charges include supplying methamphetamine.
The offences are alleged to have been committed between May 2015 and March 2018 in Kawerau, Whakatane, and Gisborne and possibly elsewhere in New Zealand.
Crown prosecutor Oliver Salt told the jury on Tuesday that the charges stem from a 6-month covert police operation named Operation Notus which ended in March 2018 focused on the activities of the Mongrel Mob Kawerau chapter and their associates.
The operation culminated in a large number of arrests including the defendants, he said.
Salt said Frank Milosevic, as the president of the Kawerau chapter, and his son Slobodan, also a patched member of the chapter and his second-in-charge, controlled most of the alleged drug-dealing activities described in the 65 charges.
The alleged offences involved "not insignificant" amounts of drugs being sourced and onsold to others for significant profits, he said.
Salt said, for instance, charge 17 related to Frank Milosevic and son Slobodan discussing sourcing 10 ounces of P which they planned to sell to their customers making $50,000.
Cannabis cultivation and dealing charges centred around large scale cannabis growing and drying operation run from a Hogg Rd property on the outskirts of Kawerau, he said.
Salt said Manuel, a patched member of the Mongrel Mob and known as 'Star Dog' to his associates was heavily involved in the drug-dealing enterprise.
Keith Pryor, who the Crown says was a "prolific street dealer" was selling significant quantities of P and cannabis during the Operation Notus investigation phase, he said.
He said the majority of Crown's evidence in the trial would be intercepted communications by police including a large number of text messages and phone calls.
Salt said among the 65 witnesses in the trial were a number of police officers and a police forensic accountant who would give evidence about large unexplained assets.
"You may find it telling that cash some of the defendants had in their bank accounts or went through their accounts far outstripped any legitimate income they received."
He said, for instance, Frank Milosevic and his partner had an unexplained income of not less than $263,785.19 and the Crown says this was proceeds from his drug dealing.
Four defendants' lawyers made a brief opening statement to the jury.
Frank Milosevic's lawyer Bill Nabney urged the jury to keep an open mind until they had heard all the evidence.
"Given the rural environment his client lives in and his family's involvement in hunting and fishing, a lot of the terms used in the messages are everyday common terms," he said.
"I suggest to you in the case of Frank Milosevic, that is what was being discussed, but ultimately it will be up to you what you make of it, " he said.
Gene Tomlinson, who is acting for Slobodan Milosevic, said similarly in terms of his client, he was heavily involved in hunting fishing and collecting of kaimoana.
"I urge you not to fall into the trap of just accepting the police interpretations and to wind it back ... ask yourself could they be talking about other things."
Lawrence Te Kira's lawyer Adam Simperingham said the key issue for the jury was could the Crown prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his client was guilty of drug dealing.
Simperingham said the defence's position was that Crown could not prove the charges.
Tomlinson, who also acts for Starlight Manuel, said again most of the Crown evidence was about interpretations and "guesswork" what the text messages and calls were about.
"It's not what police say they are but what you say they are ... I urge you to listen to the communications very carefully," he told the jury.
The trial presided over by Judge Paul Mabey QC is expected to take up to nine weeks.
Eight 'Operation' Notus defendants' charges:
Four charges of possession of cannabis for sale
Two charges of selling cannabis to various persons in Whakatane or elsewhere in NZ.
Two representative charges of offering to sell cannabis
Conspired with Frank Milosevic to sell cannabis.
Possession of methamphetamine for supply
Offered to supply methamphetamine to a person/persons unknown
Three charges of unlawful possession of firearms, namely a 6.5X55 rifle, 12-gauge semi-automatic escort Magnum shotgun, and a .308 Weatherby rifle
Unlawful possession of explosives namely 278 rounds of ammunition.
Two charges of possession of an offensive weapon, namely a knife and knuckledusters.
Cultivated cannabis with Slobodan and Te Ohehere Milosevic.
Cultivated cannabis together with his son Slobodan.
Possession of P for supply jointly with Slobodan.
Two joint charges with Slobodan of supplied P to persons unknown.
Conspired with Slobodan to supply methamphetamine.
Three charges of offered to sell cannabis (including to Starlight Manuel and Keith Pryor)
Six charges of selling cannabis (including to Starlight Manuel and Keith Pryor)
Possession of cannabis for sale.
Conspired with Starlight Manuel to sell cannabis.
Two representatives charges of supplied P
Offered to supply methamphetamine
Two joint charges of engaging in money laundering transactions with Irene Raki.
Two joint charges of cultivated cannabis (with Frank and/or Te Ohehere Milosevic.
Two charges of supplied (P) together with Frank Milosevic.
Four further charges of supplied P to other persons (alone)
Conspired with Frank Milosevic to supply methamphetamine
Offered to supply P to various persons (representative charge).
Possession of P for supply together with Frank Milosevic.
Four charges of selling cannabis
Offered to sell cannabis and possession of cannabis for sale.
Three charges of engaging in money laundering with Raiha Tawera.
Te Oherere Lucky Boy Milosevic:
Unlawful possession of firearms, namely a Winchester 12-gauge punch action shotgun,
a Benelli 12-gauge shotgun, a Remington Modd 783 7mm rifle, with bifold and scope, A Lee Enfield 303 rifle, an Anschut 22 long rifle with a scope.
Unlawful possession of explosives, namely ammunition
Joint charges of cultivated cannabis with Frank and Slobodan Milosevic.
Joint representative charges of:
Selling cannabis to various persons
Possession of cannabis for sale
Offered to sell cannabis
Possession of P for supply,
Offer to supply methamphetamine
Two representative charges of engaging in money laundering with Frank Milosevic relating to cash deposits into bank accounts and cash purchases.
Three representative charges of engaging in money laundering with Slobodan Milosevic
in relation to $54,000 of bank payments, $104,894 cash deposits and cash purchases.
Lawrence Te Kira:
Possession of P for supply
Two charges of offering to supply P to Slobodan Milosevic
Supplied P to Slobodan Milosevic