Two Polish men have been found guilty of importing cocaine but a Russian sailor cleared his name as jurors reached verdicts today in the Bastion Pt cocaine trial.
Sailor Aleksandr Cherushev was expected to leave custody for the first time in nearly two years, after jurors found him not guilty of importing or supplying cocaine.
But at the High Court in Auckland, Polish men Ryszard Wilk and Patryk Lukasz Lukasik were found guilty of charges including importing the Class A drug.
Prosecutors had claimed Cherushev sailed into New Zealand on the ship Discovery Bay from Panama, then went into downtown Auckland with kilograms of cocaine.
But Cherushev's defence lawyers Ron Mansfield and Steven Lack said the sailor had no interest in drugs and was a career-driven man who wanted to help his family.
Cherushev has a wife and child in Kaliningrad, a Russian territory on the Baltic Sea northeast of Poland.
At 10.46am today, after the verdicts were delivered, Justice Tracey Walker told Cherushev he could leave the dock.
It's understood authorities were considering deporting Cherushev. Even though he committed no crime, he might not legally be allowed in New Zealand now.
But keeping Cherushev in custody was expected to spark a legal challenge, as he'd only technically be an overstayer because he'd been detained on drug charges.
"The actual basis upon which he leaves New Zealand is still being resolved," Mansfield said this afternoon.
The Crown had alleged Cherushev delivered cocaine to Wilk, and to Wilk's son Ralph.
During the trial, jurors were told Ralph Wilk had already admitted supplying cocaine.
The Crown also claimed Lukasik encouraged the enterprise, and helped with money laundering.
But Cherushev, giving evidence in his own defence, said he never met the other men on trial before he was arrested, and had nothing to do with importing drugs.
Cherushev was arrested in Nelson in 2019.
Jurors heard from detectives who dug up rubbish bags and cocaine remnants at Auckland's Bastion Pt Reserve in 2017.
Prosecutors said this strange stash was linked to a much bigger cocaine racket.
Police said piles of cash uncovered in a covert search and multiple seized messages linked the three men on trial to the cocaine business.
Prosecutor Brian Dickey claimed Ryszard Wilk was the group's leader.
A Customs officer found Wilk at Auckland International Airport in April 2017 with $70,000 cash.
The Crown said that cash, and much more generated the year before, had no legitimate source.
Ryszard Wilk was found guilty on four cocaine charges - importing, supplying, possessing it for supply, and conspiring to import the drug.
Lukasik was found guilty of money laundering as well as importing cocaine.
Wilk and Lukasik will be sentenced on June 22.