Ralph Wilk came to New Zealand with one goal in mind, to make money by soliciting the supply of cocaine from South America.
It led to the Polish national being imprisoned in 2018 for eight years and five months - a sentence which was upheld today by the Court of Appeal.
The now 31-year-old first arrived in Auckland during September 2016 with his father Ryszard Wilk, who last year was extradited from Venezuela after Interpol issued a global wanted notice.
They were here to meet and pay a Russian man, sailor Aleksandr Cherushev, for $1.2 million of cocaine, which was being allegedly smuggled into the country from South America by Cherushev on board the food vessel Discovery Bay.
Cherushev is also awaiting trial, after the Herald revealed police had arrested him at Nelson's port on the container ship Seatrade Red after a three-year global search.
In the Court of Appeal judgment released today, Justice Timothy Brewer said it was accepted Ralph Wilk was "acting under instructions from his father who was [allegedly] the leader of the enterprise", the details of which were first revealed by the Herald on Sunday in December 2018.
As quickly as they had arrived in 2016, the Wilks left New Zealand after a supermarket carpark rendezvous with Cherushev.
They returned to Poland, leaving behind the concealed cocaine, but would come back to Aotearoa in November 2016. Their purpose, the Court of Appeal's judgment reads, was to collect owed money and arrange further drug drops.
Ryszard Wilk, 58, is also accused of attempting to arrange further drug drops at the direction of a West African man, who was using a telephone number with a prefix for Ecuador and is believed to be the mastermind of the plot, court documents obtained by the Herald read.
"Ralph Wilk was useful to his father partly because [he] speaks English and the father did not," the appeal decision reads.
"Intercepted telephone communications between [Ralph Wilk] and the unknown male have the father's voice in the background presumably telling [his son] what to say."
In November 2016, Ralph Wilk again left New Zealand but this time had his checked-in luggage searched covertly by authorities before his plane left. Some $40,000 in cash was found in his suitcase, hidden in four Chinese noodle packets, which was seized by Customs.
Ryszard Wilk then departed New Zealand in April 2017, while his son returned in June that year "for the purpose of collecting cash [allegedly] hidden by his father at Bastion Point in Auckland".
The Herald earlier revealed that $130,000 had been buried at the east Auckland location.
Police surveillance teams also spotted Ralph Wilk handing another man, Auckland builder Bryan Williams, a bag which was later found to contain $51,800. Williams, who was arrested and later sentenced to home detention, was tasked with remitting the money to Poland, the Court of Appeal's judgment reads.
In July 2017, police executed a covert search on Ralph Wilk's apartment and found $116,100 and US$10,000 before arresting him.
Ralph Wilk was originally charged with importing the cocaine and pleaded not guilty, however, on the morning of what was supposed to be a jury trial in September 2018, he, Williams and money laundering IT engineer Mohammed Khan all pleaded guilty at the eleventh hour.
• Accused Polish conspirator extradited from Venezuela, faces potential trial alongside Russian sailor
• Police nab Russian sailor accused of cocaine trafficking at Nelson port after three-year chase
• Queen St money remitter discharged after laundering Polish and Russian crime syndicate's cash
• Germany approves New Zealand request to extradite accused Polish man over global crime syndicate
• Three Poles, a Russian sailor, a mystery West African ... and $130k buried at Bastion Point
Ralph Wilk admitted representative charges of supplying cocaine and money laundering after coming to an agreement with prosecutors to drop the importation allegation.
He asked for a sentence indication on the proposed deal and Justice Mary Peters conveyed a starting point of 11 years' imprisonment with a discount of 15 per cent for guilty pleas.
The judge also accepted Ralph Wilk was "acting under instructions from his father and that he played a secondary or lesser role", the Court of Appeal judgment reads.
Ralph Wilk immediately accepted the sentence indication and pleaded guilty to the two charges before being jailed for eight years and five months in October 2018.
On appeal this March, however, his lawyer Andrew Speed argued Justice Peters made three errors. That she gave insufficient weight to his client's limited role when she set the starting point of 11 years' imprisonment, the discount of 9 per cent for personal mitigating factors was insufficient, and the discount of 15 per cent for the guilty pleas was also inadequate.
Speed said Ralph Wilk was subordinate to his father, played a lesser role and was "really just acting as translator".
However, Justice Brewer said the Court of Appeal disagreed and found Ralph Wilk played a "significant role in the overall offending".
"At the latest, [Ralph] Wilk became aware of the scale of the offending when he first came to New Zealand with his father and the 4kg of cocaine were obtained," the decision reads.
"Thereafter he supported his father and was involved in the supply of the first amount of 2kg."
The Court of Appeal added Ralph Wilk further assisted his father by laundering some of the profits and returned to New Zealand to assist with collecting outstanding payments.
"[Ralph] Wilk travelled to New Zealand on three occasions staying weeks at a time. He handled large sums of cash and his father remitted overseas more than $600,000. It can be inferred that [Ralph] Wilk's offending had a commercial motivation."
In dismissing the appeal, Justice Brewer said it "was significant and commercial offending" and the sentence must serve the purposes of denunciation and deterrence.
He will be deported when he has served his sentence.
The investigation into the conspiracy, which is understood to involve at least 10 people, has seen law enforcement agents used in Germany, eastern Europe, Ecuador, Venezuela and in New Zealand with the National Organised Crime Group under the code-name Operation Moa.
Fellow Polish man Patryk Lukasik, 42, is another accused of being part of the conspiracy and was arrested in Germany before being extradited back to New Zealand in early 2019.
He, Cherushev and Ryszard Wilk were due to go to trial in the High Court in July, however, it is likely adjourned due to restrictions imposed on jury trials by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Another member of the group, a woman who worked at a money remittance company on Queen St was also charged with money laundering. Last June, a jury found Qiannan (Christina) Tang guilty of one charge but acquitted her on a remaining eight counts.
She was later discharged without conviction.