Two men jailed for their roles in importing a massive consignment of cocaine into New Zealand, hidden inside a diamante-encrusted horse head, have challenged their sentences.
US man Ronald Wayne Cook Senior and Mexican national Agustin Suarez-Juarez were arrested after Customs found 35kg of cocaine inside the nearly 400kg statue, which arrived by plane from Mexico via Hong Kong.
The drugs had an estimated street value of up to $14 million.
Both men were charged with possession of and attempting to supply the class-A drug.
In 2017, Justice Sarah Katz sentenced Cook to a total of 17 years and nine months' imprisonment and Suarez-Juarez to 19 years and nine months.
Today, the case was heard again at the Court of Appeal before Justices Stephen Kos, Edwin Wylie and Matthew Muir.
Cook's defence lawyer Ron Mansfield argued that the starting point used at sentencing was too high.
He added a reduction of no less than two years was appropriate for Cook's good character, vulnerability due to age and poverty as well as the fact he was a foreign national.
Mansfield said the court had recognised before any sentence served by a foreign national - well away from family and loved ones - would be "significantly more onerous than it would be for one of our own".
The lawyer repeated during the hearing that Justice Katz had said it appeared to reflect a "one off catastrophic fall from grace in an otherwise worthy life".
Suarez-Juarez, who represented himself via AVL link, disagreed with the lawyer's assertion that a significant distinction should be made between the roles of the two.
"I am not asking for kindness. I only ask for impartiality. And I understand that I have to pay. I understand that I made a mistake."
He also wanted his sentence to also be reduced, on the basis it was manifestly excessive.
Crown prosecutor James Carruthers said at the time it was the largest consignment of cocaine imported into the country and both men "stood to be rewarded quite handsomely".
While he acknowledged the $50,000 sum Cook was set to receive paled in comparison to the street value of the haul, it was "still a significant amount of money" to an individual, he said.
"While I don't suggest, and nobody has suggested, that either appellant was a ring-leader or mastermind, their roles can't be downplayed ..."
They both played very active roles in securing a shipment with the intention of distributing it and went into the offending with "eyes wide open".