A corrupt former cop has today been revealed as a mole for organised criminals in the New Zealand Police.
Vili Taukolo was a highly-paid informant for the criminal underworld during a 15-month period while he worked as an Auckland constable.
The 31-year-old was accessing the police's national intelligence application system (NIA) before releasing confidential information to crooks, all while getting paid tens of thousands of dollars for the leaks.
Taukolo was sentenced this afternoon in the Auckland District Court after the Herald earlier revealed a police officer had pleaded guilty to accessing the NIA for a dishonest purpose.
He was sent to prison by Judge Philippa Cunningham.
While an active police officer, he accessed the intelligence system between February 18 last year and March 25, court documents viewed by the Herald show.
The NIA holds details about police investigations, people's vehicles, locations, phone numbers and criminal histories.
There are nearly 2 million people, just over 40 per cent of the New Zealand population, who appear in the NIA with an alert against their name.
Prosecutor David Johnstone said several NIA documents and cash were found under Taukolo's mattress when police searched his home.
He said the corrupt cop "must have been attracted to the reward he would get" for acting as a mole, which reached about $70,000.
About 20,000 suspicious queries were made by Taukolo under his own user ID, while information about some 34 individual police officers was accessed, the court heard.
Intelligence about people connected to significant and high-profile investigations was also released, including for a person who was arrested in Christchurch over the importation of meth.
While Taukolo's leaks did not compromise a specific police operation his corruption must have at the very least drained some faith the public to have in its police force, Johnstone said.
Taukolo, who was formerly a deputy registrar of the High Court, was caught after irregularities in his use of the NIA were discovered and led to an audit by police.
The ex-officer's lawyer, Marie Dyhrberg QC, said while her client was leaking information to crooks he didn't become a criminal himself.
Judge Cunningham sentenced Taukolo to two years and two months' imprisonment.
He will be kept in segregation while serving his time behind bars.
Taukolo, who started his police career as an authorised officer in courthouses, was initially stood down from duty after the NIA allegations emerged.
Police said an employment investigation would also follow the criminal proceedings.
However, a police spokesperson has told the Herald he resigned earlier this year.
Taukolo graduated from police college at the end of 2016 and began work as a sworn officer in South Auckland.
Superintendent Karyn Malthus, the Auckland City District Commander, said Taukolo's actions were "disgraceful".
"Police staff rightly feel betrayed by him," she said in a statement after sentencing. "To say that I am disappointed in his actions is an understatement."
Taukolo had broken not only the high-level of trust police place on its employees, but also the trust rightly expected of police by the public, Malthus said.
Not only was Taukolo breaching people's privacy, including some of his own colleagues, he was committing a serious criminal offence each time, she added.
"Police officers spent months analysing the information accessed by Mr Taukolo on NIA. The investigation was exhaustive in nature and only concluded recently," Malthus said.
"Every one of his NIA transactions over the period of his offending were analysed individually to assess whether it was a legitimate or illegitimate query."
No safety concerns were evident for the majority of individuals Taukolo searched, Malthus said.
"I want to reassure the community that police took immediate investigative action when this offending was first discovered, and we self-reported the matter to the Independent Police Conduct Authority," she said.
"Every officer makes an oath to abide by the police code of conduct when they join New Zealand Police and to serve the public of New Zealand. To break that oath is of the greatest concern to all police employees."
Malthus said Taukolo acted alone and no other police officers were found to be involved.
"As a result of this incident, a comprehensive internal review has been conducted to examine our processes and establish if there are any changes we can implement to prevent this type of offending from taking place in the future, and this work remains ongoing."
Civil restraining orders against Taukolo, under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act, were also earlier granted by the High Court.
Dyhrberg sought permanent name suppression for Taukolo today, which was opposed by the Herald, Stuff and the police.
Judge Cunningham dismissed the application.
The corrupt constable had enjoyed name suppression until today with the previous support of police since his first court appearance in March.
It continued despite a High Court judge quashing the interim order because of Dyhrberg's permanent suppression application.
In a July judgment, after a suppression appeal by media, Justice Paul Davison said District Court Judge David Sharp continued the gag order without making an assessment himself nor providing reasons.
"This case illustrates the risk that when the court proceeds on the basis of an agreement between the prosecution and defence as regards to interim name suppression, the public interest represented by the media may be overlooked," Justice Davison said.
"The obligation on the court to give reasons for its decision enables parties, the public, and the media as the 'watch dog' of the public interest to understand the reasons why a suppression order has been made."
The giving of reasons, Justice Davison continued, ensures confidence in the courts and that the system is upheld by explaining why the public interest in having open justice yields to the private interests of the person charged.
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While on bail for his NIA offending, Taukolo also committed another offence, the Herald on Sunday earlier revealed.
On September 15, during the early hours of the morning, he tried to enter the Femme Fatale gentlemen's club.
The Auckland brothel, however, was closed and staff told him to leave.
The former cop, in a "very intoxicated state", then pushed past and started to punch and kick a glass door before elbowing another window.
Police were called but Taukolo was considered too drunk to make a statement.
He was charged with wilful damage, convicted and fined $250.
Disgraced police officers and the NIA
Taukolo is, however, not the first police staffer to fall foul of the law by using the NIA for illegal purposes.
And he is also not the first to leak intelligence to organised criminals.
Auckland motorway support officer Darren Hodgetts was bribed into using the NIA to search and leak details of a man who was under surveillance in a major police drug sting code-named Operation Ark.
The non-sworn police worker was sentenced in 2012 to four months' community detention.
In 2017, former Auckland constable Jeremy Malifa stalked 21 women using information from the NIA in what Judge Heemi Taumaunu described as a "predatory manner".
He was sentenced to 400 hours of community work, 12 months' supervision, six months' community detention and ordered to pay $200 to each of his victims.
As a result of Malifa's crimes, the NIA was updated to no longer use a manual audit process.
Other police employees to illegally use the NIA system include an Auckland prosecutor, who was arrested in 2011 after it was discovered he was dealing methamphetamine.
Timothy Sarah was jailed for four years in 2013 on three charges of supplying meth, one charge of possessing the class A drug and one charge of dishonestly accessing a computer system.
Sarah admitted using the NIA to obtain information about fellow drug dealers and associates so he could warn them if they had a tail or were being investigated by police.
Former West Auckland Constable Peter Pakau was also caught in 2013 supplying information from the intelligence database to a criminal associate and gang members.
He was later sentenced to eight years and four months in prison for drugs and corruption crimes, which included accepting bribes.
The Commissioner of Police was also successful in seizing Pakau's police superannuation through the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act.
And in 2011, an internal investigation found a North Shore senior constable was using the software to leak information to his wife in a bid to win a custody battle with her ex-husband.
Terry Beatson, who kept his job with the police despite the breach, used the NIA to open the man's file 17 times over four years.
The former husband discovered the leak when he found private details in an affidavit his ex-wife filed with the Family Court.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner ruled the police breached two principles of the Privacy Act and police later agreed to pay the ex-husband $3500 for emotional harm, $1232 towards his legal bill and also write him a written apology.