A Gisborne man who imported over half a million dollars worth of ecstasy pills into New Zealand — using an unsuccessful scheme in which parcels from Britain were sometimes addressed to a former New Zealand Prime Minister — has been sentenced to prison.
Carl George Shannon submitted a letter of remorse prior to his hearing today before Judge Peter Winter in the Auckland District Court.
“He realised that he made a very large mistake,” Winter said of the “not particularly sophisticated ... one-man commercial operation” as he ordered a term of six years and two months imprisonment.
Police raided the then-43-year-old’s home in July 2020, after tracking 14 illicit packages that had been caught by Customs over a two-year period.
Altogether, the packages contained 28g of cocaine, 28g of methamphetamine and about 12,500 ecstasy tablets weighing nearly 6kg. With a street value of $40 to $70 per tablet, the total MDMA haul would have been worth between $501,000 and $878,000, authorities estimated.
The packages, which were often declared as beauty products or computer parts, were sent to a variety of addresses in Auckland, Gisborne and Tauranga including those of his family and to vacant buildings.
The last three packages before his arrest all listed the recipient as “Helen Clark” but were sent to Shannon’s own Gisborne home. They included about 1200 tablets of MDMA and all of the cocaine and methamphetamine for which he is charged.
“Inquiries have established that the consignee name Helen Clark is likely to be false,” police noted in court documents.
Another shipment addressed to a family member in Whangaparāoa in May 2020 was off by one letter.
“This package was delivered ... to the wrong address, and was subsequently surrendered to NZ Police, who examined it and advised NZ Customs that it contained 501 tablets (weighing 90g),” court documents state. “The tablets were tested by ESR and returned a positive result for MDMA.”
During authorities’ search of Shannon’s home, they found packaging for other parcels that had been received from Britain, similar to the ones that had been intercepted by Customs. Swabs of the packaging tested positive for MDMA.
Shannon declined to talk to police during his arrest, but Judge Winter noted that he later told a pre-sentence report writer that the scheme was spurred by a former business partner who owed him money. The partner travelled to Britain and didn’t have the money but offered to send him drugs instead, he said.
“Mr Shannon foolishly decided to accept that offer,” the judge said.
Shannon pleaded guilty to three representative charges of importing MDMA, methamphetamine and cocaine. The MDMA offending is punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment, while the other two drugs carried maximum sentences of life imprisonment.
Defence lawyer John Munro asked for a minor reduction of his client’s sentence based on prior good character, describing him as a loving father and pointing to letters of support from Shannon’s employers and his family.
But Crown prosecutor Ollie Salt opposed the reduction, pointing to the defendant’s “quite extensive criminal history”, which included previous convictions for drug usage.
Judge Winter noted that most of the prior offending took place between 1994 and 2012 and was all relatively minor. He declined a discount for good behaviour but allowed a similar modest discount for remorse.