Two alleged Comancheros associates who hacked at a rival gang member with a machete and a large hunting knife as he lay on a footpath, already writhing and screaming in pain after having just been hit by their car, have been sentenced to prison.
Adil Tajek, 20, and Tarat Bakhshi, 23, appeared in the Auckland District Court today after pleading guilty last year to wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily injury, which carries a maximum possible sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment.
“I’ll be back!” Bakhshi yelled jovially to supporters as he was led away to start serving a three-and-a-half-year sentence imposed minutes earlier by Judge Kirsten Lummis. Tajek was handed a three-year term.
The duo was joined in the dock by alleged gang associates Tawaab Bakshi, 26, and Mohammed Yusuf Bagni-Vohra, 22, who each pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and were both sentenced to 200 hours of community work. The four men hugged as they were separated between those headed to prison and those headed home.
Court documents state the quartet were travelling to Glen Eden, West Auckland on a Wednesday afternoon in November 2021 looking for victim Clive Henry, whom they had intended to confront while armed with knives, the machete and starter pistols.
Gang affiliations were removed from the agreed summary of facts for the case but it was noted in court today that the victim was a patched Head Hunters member who was wearing gang regalia that day. Police have said in the past that the four were all Comancheros members, although their lawyers dispute it.
“By their own admission, they knew he was [a Head Hunters member] and that’s why they were targeting him - because he had been involved in some prior incident,” Crown prosecutor Henry Steele told the judge.
“This is not impulsive offending. They’ve gone there for a very particular reason.”
The defendants spotted the victim about 40 minutes after arriving at a cul-de-sac where they expected to find him. However, they realised they were outnumbered and attempted to leave, court documents state. Tajek and Tarat Bakhshi, in the Audi, were blocked from leaving the cul-de-sac by a Mercedes driven by the victim’s associates, who had gotten out of the vehicle - one carrying a baseball bat.
“Mr Tajek and Mr Tarat Bakhshi drove towards a gap between a parked van and the Mercedes, where Mr Henry was standing,” court documents state. “The white Audi collided with the parked van and also struck Mr Henry, causing him to fall to the ground and suffer serious leg injuries.
“The white Audi sustained extensive damage to its front axle and came to a stop further down [the road]. Mr Henry, writhing and screaming in pain, attempted to crawl off the road.”
The crash alone caused the victim to suffer a wound to his lower left leg, a fractured rib, compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula, and a damaged kneecap.
“He was clearly defenceless - this would have been obvious to the defendants,” prosecutor Steele said today, suggesting the judge should take into account the victim’s vulnerability at that stage of the attack.
Tajek and Tarat Bakhshi then got out of their Audi and surrounded the victim - Tajek using a machete and Tarat Bakhshi a hunting knife during a “prolonged attack” that resulted in “significant lacerations” to the victim’s arms, back and torso. The pair then grabbed Henry’s shoulder bag before running to the Toyota Prado where the other two men waited.
Among the victim’s cutting injuries were a collapsed lung and a 5cm laceration to his diaphragm. He required emergency surgery and two other surgeries during the 12 days he was hospitalised. It is by luck only that this wasn’t a murder case, prosecutors said.
As the defendants left the scene packed into the Prado, one of them fired a starter pistol with blank cartridges multiple times in the victim’s direction.
They didn’t get far, however. Police pulled over the vehicle minutes later in Lynfield - discovering a bloody machete, a bloody knife, various other weapons and the victim’s bag and wallet. The victim’s blood was found on the back of Tarat Bakhshi’s T-shirt.
All of the defendants declined to speak with police.
During today’s hearing, defence lawyer John Munro suggested the men’s youth should result in a shorter sentence. It says a lot about their maturity, he suggested, that they “take effectively cap guns with them that you might use at a school running event” in an effort to stop others from running after them.
Their traumatic backgrounds, having come to New Zealand after witnessing violence in Afghanistan, should also be taken into account, he said. Munro also noted that Tarat Bakhshi had been studying to become a pharmacist prior to the Covid-19 pandemic derailing his academic ambitions.
“He can still make a huge contribution to our society,” Munro said, asking that both men receive home detention rather than prison so their rehabilitation could be supported by their families.
“We do have young men who have very stable support in the community, and we could safely say this is a one-off that won’t be repeated.”
But Judge Lummis agreed with the Crown that a prison term was the most appropriate sentence given the extreme violence and the vulnerability of a victim who was already too injured to run away. She acknowledged an argument by the defence that the violence should be tempered by the fact the victim and his associates had blocked the defendants from leaving and appeared to threaten violence of their own.
But any perceived threat would have vanished after Henry was hit by the car and his associates abandoned him, the judge said, agreeing with prosecutors that the attack involved significant premeditation.
“It may not have played out the way you were hoping it would play out... but you had come prepared,” she said.
Henry did not co-operate with police, nor did he attend court today or provide a victim impact statement.
Although the men deny gang membership, a high-ranking Comancheros member sat in the gallery today as the hearing began. It was also acknowledged that one of the men had previously breached bail by participating in a Comancheros motorcycle run. The defendants were previously granted name suppression - in part, a previous defence lawyer argued, so as not to add fuel to gang tensions in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
Craig Kapitan is an Auckland-based journalist covering courts and justice. He joined the Herald in 2021 and has reported on courts since 2002 in three newsrooms in the US and New Zealand.