The identities of the senior Comanchero and Waikato Mongrel Mob gang members alleged to be running the New Zealand branch of an international drug smuggling syndicate can now be revealed.
Junior Heart and Josef Armani Heart, both 32, were arrested in June as part of the so-called "sting of the century". Operation Trojan Shield, a global investigation led by the FBI and the Australian Federal Police, led to hundreds of arrests around the world.
Name suppression lapsed yesterday for the two men, who each face more than 100 charges including importing and distributing methamphetamine, cocaine and MDMA.
In Operation Trojan Shield, law enforcement agencies tricked alleged organised figures around the world into using Anom, an encrypted communication platform, on which they believed they could talk to each other freely.
In reality, Anom had been built by the FBI and AFP and investigators were watching as every word was typed.
This unprecedented treasure trove of intelligence was shared with a dozen countries, including New Zealand, and dovetailed with an ongoing police investigation into large-scale drug smuggling allegedly linked to the Comancheros motorcycle gang.
This morphed into two other parallel inquiries in which police targeted a group of Head Hunters in Auckland and an alleged alliance between the Comancheros and the Waikato Mongrel Mob.
The leader of the Waikato Mongrel Mob, Sonny Fatupaito, says his chapter is staunchly against drugs and strenuously denied any alliance with with the Comancheros.
There are however, family links between individuals in the two gangs.
On top of the serious drug and money laundering charges, Junior and Josef Heart are alleged to have participated in an organised criminal group with several others including Dwight Percival Fatu, 50, who is Junior Heart's father.
Dwight Fatu has also been charged with possession of methamphetamine to supply and other drug charges.
The allegations are unproven and the trio have pleaded not guilty.
Dwight Fatu is Sonny Fatupaito's brother, and his son Junior Heart used to be called Sonny Fatu Junior, in honour of his uncle. But he changed his name after defecting from the Waikato Mongrel Mob to the Comancheros along with his father about two years ago.
Junior Heart is now the president of the Waikato chapter of the Comancheros. His close friend is Josef Heart, who recently changed his name from Joe Edmonds, and a member of the Waikato Mongrel Mob.
He was raised as a son by Sonny Fatupaito, who was married to Heart's mother.
"This is painful, it cuts deep, it hurts because it's more than just people I know of, it is also family like all families, it's for better or worse, no matter what we all might hope for," Fatupaito said of the allegations against his relatives.
"The lapsing of name suppression will be seen as validation to accusations to simply reinforce what many hoped for, accusations which scapegoat a far wider problem that is being ignored by politicians to society's ultimate peril.
"The evidence is minimised because 'patched gangs' grab better headlines, what is said and done now will have ramifications into the future, just like it has done for past decades."
Fatupaito said he could not comment further as the matter was before the court.
The police in Operation Equinox, the New Zealand police investigation that dovetailed with the FBI's sting, allege that Junior and Josef Heart were the senior partners at the top of a local drug empire with global links.
The "Heart brothers" have been charged with participating in an organised criminal group with several others, including Duax and Shane Ngakuru, both of whom live overseas.
Duax Ngakuru is a New Zealand citizen who left Australia in 2010 to live in Turkey where he has allegedly conspired to import large quantities of methamphetamine and MDMA into New Zealand.
He is a close friend of Hakan Ayik, a high priority target of the Australian Federal Police in Operation Trojan Shield.
Undercover agents gave Ayik the encrypted Anom app, marketed as an uncrackable way of communicating, and he walked into the trap set by the AFP and FBI.
Ayik shared the Anom app with his alleged criminal network, allowing law enforcement around the world to monitor every conversation and collect alleged evidence of international drug deals.
One of those alleged to have spread the Anom word on Ayik's behalf was another New Zealander, Shane Ngakuru.
A cousin of Duax Ngakuru, Shane Ngakuru is believed to be living in Thailand and is wanted by the FBI as an alleged distributor of the Anom devices.
He allegedly received payments for the $2000 six-month subscription fees and was able to remotely delete and reset devices, as well as communicate with the administrators of the encrypted platform.
Anom was marketed as "designed by criminals for criminals" with, according to the FBI, the purpose of facilitating global drug trafficking and money laundering without being detected by law enforcement.
By allegedly playing such an important role in distribution and technical support, Shane Ngakuru has been charged as part of the so-called "ANoM Enterprise" under the US anti-racketeering legislation.
"There are at least 9500 Anom devices in use worldwide, including in the United States. Since October 2019, Anom has generated the defendants millions of dollars in profit by facilitating the criminal activity of transnational criminal organisations and protecting these organisations from law enforcement."
The FBI considers Shane Ngakuru a "fugitive". If arrested and convicted in the United States he faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
If he was ever arrested, Ngakuru, 41, would face charges in New Zealand of importing methamphetamine, cocaine and MDMA into the country. He also faces charges of drug conspiracy, money laundering and participating in an organised criminal group.
A well-known entertainer, who has name suppression, has been charged with conspiracy to money launder $6 million on behalf of the Ngakurus.
Operation Trojan Shield has been described as an unprecedented blow to organised crime, with more than 800 arrests around the world.
Importantly for law enforcement, the investigation has undermined the once unshakeable faith in encrypted communication devices or apps where alleged organised criminals were once able to openly discuss their activities without fear of their messages being intercepted by police.