Harry Tam, a man described as a "lifetime honorary member" of the Mongrel Mob, when defending a government grant of $2.75 million towards a methamphetamine rehabilitation programme that his company runs, said, "Jacinda seems to trust me, why wouldn't you?"
Well, Harry, let me list the reasons I don't share the Prime Minister's trust in you.
Your drugs programme run at Tapairu Marae, near Waipawa, involves Sonny Smith, the Mongrel Mob leader of the Notorious chapter. The Notorious is described by police as the leading distributor of meth in Hawke's Bay.
Police Association president Chris Cahill quotes an anonymous officer as likening it to "the most successful money-laundering scheme he'd heard [of]". As Cahill says, "Police take $2 million of dirty money – as they recently did from the Notorious chapter of the Mongrel Mob in Operation Dusk in Hawke's Bay – and the Government returns $2.75 million in clean money to people so closely linked to the same gang."
There has been an explosion in Mob membership here in Hawke's Bay. A multitude of chapters have set up, a little like corner dairies, each operating its own lucrative businesses selling, among other things, methamphetamine.
This chain of chapters has a simple method of operation. New gang members are recruited, given a car or motorcycle, effectively made a franchisee in the meth business, then sent out to sell.
Until recently, three of them lived in a motor camp a kilometre away from me. They would ride daily past my place, patched up, on Harley-Davidsons, off for a day's marketing of their product. The police eventually drove them out of the camp, to the relief of the neighbourhood, but no doubt they are continuing their sales operations elsewhere, along with the many other Mob chapters in the Bay.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Tam's Hard2Reach operation was granted the $2.75 million funding to run for three years a course for up to 120 gang members and family participants a year in an eight-week live-in programme, with another eight weeks follow-up. Among other activities, the participants appear to be working in a garden on Smith's property.
There is a simpler and cheaper method of combating the methamphetamine plague. Tam and Smith could simply have the Notorious and other chapters cease selling meth. But then, of course, they would not receive the $2.75 million from the Proceeds of Crime fund given to them and signed off by Ardern, Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Justice Minister Andrew Little.
National acidly points out that Tam's company website states that gang members must vote for the Labour Party – "there's only one option" – and he campaigned in "gang pads" around the country for Labour at the last election. It is hard not to see it all as a clear example of what bureaucrats call "reciprocity" or, in less opaque language, mutual backscratching.
National has complained to the Auditor-General, requesting an investigation of the government grant and another instance where the Chief Human Rights Commissioner gave a $200 "koha" to the Waikato chapter of the Mongrel Mob. The chances of it getting that investigation are slim.
Ardern points to oversight of the grant's spending and the programme's performance by the Ministry of Health and other government departments. It is hard not to see that as a smokescreen.
The inescapable point remains, why should Mongrel Mob members receive $2.75 million of public money to eliminate a problem the Mongrel Mob helped create?
As Cahill says, a gang-run addiction service is "really akin to a pharmacy infecting its customers with a cold, and then selling them cold medication".