A career criminal whose co-accused swallowed condoms full of meth and hid the drugs in an interview room ceiling at Auckland Airport when his questioners weren't watching was sent to jail today.
Drug importer Anthony Brian Newton spent many of his early years in a Queensland jail and was once among a clique who persuaded a woman to smuggle heroin out of Thailand.
For her troubles, Phyllis Tarawhiti was given the death penalty, later commuted to a sentence that caused her to spend a decade in the notorious Bangkok Hilton.
After avoiding a prison sentence for nearly 20 years, Newton, 57, was today jailed for what a judge called his "return to the serious importation of Class A controlled drugs for a commercial purpose".
Newton, of Wellington, was arrested after embarrassed Customs bosses admitted a 220g methamphetamine package was discovered in an Auckland Airport ceiling in January 2013.
Four years earlier, Newton's associate Dinesh Manoharan swallowed the condoms, and Wellington District Court today heard he "expelled" them from his body while in a border security interview room. The method of expulsion was not articulated in court today.
When the drug-filled condoms were eventually found, DNA found a match for the packages.
Newton and Manoharan were charged. Manoharan, a serial burglar, was already in jail for an earlier violent home invasion.
Newton, now 57, had been in custody for around two-and-a-half years as his case dragged on.
Defence lawyer Letizea Ord today asked that sentencing be delayed 18 months to allow Newton to attend Moana House, a Dunedin residential therapeutic community.
She said Newton first became a drug addict when he was 18 or 19 and "has been dependent on opiates ever since".
Ms Ord said Newton, 57, was seriously ill. He was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, and the court heard he had hypertension, pain sitting or standing for long, and frequent pain in his abdominal area.
"He's now in poor health and requires methadone to relieve the pain he's in as well," Ms Ord told Judge Denys Barry.
She said cancer was a likely outcome of his liver damage.
Newton had experienced hormonal problems due to his illness, and Ms Ord said he had "a reduced life expectancy".
She said his poor health should be taken into account when the court considered his punishment.
"He is a man in his mid-to-late 50s who's looking at a lengthy sentence for importing methamphetamine," she said.
Ms Ord said Newton had funded his own treatment and had taken counselling after a previous release from jail.
She said until Newton was treated properly, he'd have trouble kicking his decades-long drug habit.
Judge Barry acknowledged Newton had a troubled upbringing.
He said his difficult early years were no doubt formative in creating a "man who has been reduced to an opiate user now for many years ... along with an opiate and other drug dealer".
But Judge Barry said Newton denied wrongdoing in the current case right up until his proposed trial, when he changed his mind.
The judge agreed with Crown prosecutor Kate Feltham that sentencing should not be postponed.
"It's not appropriate to delay the sentencing. Such a rehabilitative initiative ... must be part and parcel of release initiatives."
Judge Barry directed that a copy of a drug and alcohol assessment be made available to the Parole Board, to consider how Newton might be treated while serving time.
The court heard some of Newton's criminal history, which archives shed more light on.
Newton spent much of the late '80s and early '90s in a Queensland jail for importing drugs.
After he was deported in 1995, he established contacts in Wellington, including the suburb of Newtown.
At the time, police encountered a growing drug issue, especially in the escort and massage scene. Newton and two associates approached Tarawhiti and another woman at Sensations escort agency in Riddiford St, Wellington.
Newton's shift from heroin to meth may mirror a wider trend, as reports from the time of his 1997 appearance indicate heroin was for more common then than now.
On one day, on the very same page that Newton's hearing was reported, the Evening Post newspaper carried a story of American James Patrick Dore, sentenced to three years' jail for importing heroin. He sold 1.5g of the drug for $700.
When eventually caught and charged for his role in persuading Tarawhiti to smuggle heroin out of Thailand, Newton was given a seven year sentence in 1997.
A court heard he had ditched Tarawhiti when she was nabbed at a Bangkok airport with heroin worth millions on the street.
After featuring in frequent news reports for his criminal exploits, even when behind bars, Newton disappeared off the public record for some time last decade, his name only surfacing when registering Wellington companies that soon after folded.
It's understood Newton spent time in recent years in the Wellington suburbs of Khandallah, Karori, and Northland.
At some point he met Hutt Valley man and serial burglar Dinesh Manoharan, who was later convicted for a violent home invasion.
The pair teamed up to smuggle meth out of China, eventually importing the drug that landed Newton in the dock today.
The Crown said Newton's criminal history warranted a "significant uplift" in today's sentence but the defence said the passage of time meant he should not be "re-sentenced" for these old offences.
Newton's guilty plea also warranted a discount, the defence argued.
Judge Barry accepted eight years as a starting point for Newton's punishment.
After considering Newton's guilty plea and poor health, he sentenced Newton to six years and two months in jail.
A concurrent sentence of one year was imposed for the dishonest use of a document, relating to a scam $45,000 invoice.
Newton's history of events
• 1995: Newton is deported from Australia after serving an 11-year jail term in Queensland for importing drugs. Soon after, Daniel John Convery, Elizabeth Anne Steeds and Newton all reportedly live at the Sensations escort agency in Newtown, Wellington, which Convery is said to be running.
The trio approach two women working at the agency, Phyllis Tarawhiti of Wainuiomata, and Lisa Tawhai, with an offer to make $15,000 for nine hours' work in Thailand. Tawhai says no. Tarawhiti says yes.
Convery books a flight to Thailand for Tarawhiti. Newton meets her there and is seen in the company of two Thai woman, one called Lek.
• November 26, 1995: Newton escorts Tarawhiti to the Bangkok International Airport with the Thai women.
Tarawhiti is about to board her flight when narcotics officers find her with about 350 grams of heroin, with an estimated street value of about $4 million in New Zealand. She is arrested and charged with attempting to export the drug.
• Jan 1996: Newton returns to New Zealand to rejoin Elizabeth Anne Steeds, his de facto wife. The pair are soon after caught in Palmerston North with 43.5g of heroin, worth up to $200,000 ($295,000 today). They paid only $300 for the drugs, a court later heard.
• May 24, 1996: Tarawhiti, 39, is sentenced to 35 years jail in Bangkok court, commuted from the death penalty. She pleaded guilty to trying to smuggle the heroin out of Thailand. She'd spend the next 11 years in the so-called Bangkok Hilton.
• Oct 1996: In Wellington, Steeds, now 35, is jailed for 5 years for aiding Tarawhiti to smuggle the heroin out of Thailand. She supplied the $1400 ($2040 in today's money) for Tarawhiti's plane ticket, a fraction of the $1.84m the drug was worth on the streets then. The High Court hears Newton, father of Steeds' six-month-old child, abandoned Tarawhiti when she was caught in Thailand. Defence lawyer Bruce Davidson, now a judge, says Steeds tried to dissuade Tarawhiti from going to Thailand.
• Oct 1996: Newton fails to appear in court following his arrest in the Manawatu and a warrant for his arrest is issued.
• Jan 31, 1997: Newton, then aged 38, pleads not guilty to having arranged Tarawhiti's possession of heroin in Thailand. But he pleads guilty to importing heroin and possessing the drug for supply. He pleads not guilty to having arranged the attempted heroin export from Thailand in November 1995, and aiding Tarawhiti's possession of heroin for supply.
• March 12, 1997: Newton is sentenced to 7 years' jail for importing and four years for possessing heroin for supply. He was ordered to serve at least half the sentence before being considered for parole.
He told a probation officer he couldn't get a job since all his qualifications were marked with the institution where they were obtained, "Department of Corrections" or similar, the Evening Post reported.
• September 2003: Newton's temporary release from Rimutaka Prison is revoked and he's booted off a computer course there after testing positive for methamphetamine use. In a unit in which Newton was housed, a syringe, meth and cannabis were found. He was due for release in early 2004.
• August 1, 2006: Newton and one Le Yi Lu register a company called Fonz and Things Ltd, listing a Seatoun Heights Rd property as its address.
• January 26, 2007: Thai authorities grant a rare pardon to Tarawhiti, who soon after flies home and for the next few weeks lives with her father in Auckland.
• October 30, 2007: Newton's new company Prosperous Property Services, is registered to a Roseneath address.
• October 9, 2008: A new company, Capital Quay Properties Ltd, is incorporated with Newton as sole director and shareholder.
• February 2009: A 220g package of methamphetamine worth up to $220,000 is stashed in a Customs-controlled area of Auckland International Airport.
• June 19, 2011: Dinesh Manoharan and serial burglar Jeremy Brian Gorinski steal $60,000 in an armed home invasion in Upper Hutt, leaving an elderly couple tied up and traumatised. A third man is involved in the robbery but never charged.
• January 2013: Embarrassed Customs bosses admit the 220g package of methamphetamine has been discovered in the airport.
• December 5, 2013: Dinesh Manoharan, already serving an 11-year sentence for the home invasion, is sentenced to an extra four years in jail for his role importing the meth.