An Australian man who admitted possessing more than 100kg methamphetamine for supply has been sentenced to 14 years and sevens months' imprisonment.
Alan Tran, 27, arrived at Auckland Airport on June 17 last year and was joined by Michael Eugenio Navarro a fortnight later.
Although their arrival cards stated they were visiting the country for a short time, Customs investigators established the men had rented a storage unit.
On July 25, Customs investigators carried out search warrants at the Manurewa storage unit and where the men were staying.
The search of the storage unit found 142 black and green plastic storage pallets, 51 of which had contained methamphetamine in hidden compartments.
Two had already been partially disassembled.
Authorities also found clandestine laboratory equipment in a locked room, including gas bottles, methylated spirits, cooking pots and other items.
Also discovered in this room were four A4 sized ziplock bags of white powder that had come out of the pallets.
The overall haul totalled 109.6kg of methampetamine, the court heard.
Crown prosecutor Nick Webby said Tran was more than a catcher as he rented a truck to move the drugs and then helped extract them.
Defence lawyer Ron Mansfield said his client was recruited in Australia when he was feeling lost as to what he should do with his life.
"It is perfectly clear Mr Tran was at the very low end of the chain."
Tran initially thought that he was helping ready a warehouse but remained involved when he realised there were drugs because he was already "embroiled" in what was going on.
Mansfield said Tran is still a young man, who has a partner and a very young child waiting for him at home in Australia.
"He has no support network here."
Given the present climate, travel between the two countries was virtually impossible, he said. "He is as far away from his family as if they were in the UK."
There was no prospect of him seeing his child for a long time, he said.
"For him that is heartbreaking. He has made a grave mistake, there is no doubt about it."
Justice Paul Davison said the methamphetamine was analysed by ESR and found to have a purity of 80 per cent. Therefore it had a value of about $29–54 million.
This could have caused in excess of $135m in harm to the community, the court heard.
The court heard that Tran's family had originally fled to Australia to escape genocide in Cambodia.
Tran felt pressure to succeed when his family had arrived with nothing, Justice Davison said.
He was bullied at school, moving several times, before falling in to "the wrong crowd" when he began skipping classes, drinking and smoking.
He was unemployed when he met Navarro who recruited him into the enterprise, the court heard.
"In my view, your role was more serious than that of a mere catcher," the High Court judge said.
"You say you were afraid of reprisal and that if you withdrew and alerted police you might find yourself in trouble."
Tran maintained he did not initially know what he was becoming involved in and remained involved due to fear, the court heard.
"I find that explanation to be somewhat implausible."
It must have become obvious at some point what he was involved in, he said.
"It was the money that motivated you and you were prepared to take the risk of becoming involved."
It could be said he was a willing pair of hands with no organisational role, he said.
It was a "significant commercial dealing" and the extent of "misery and destruction" this could have caused in the community was profound, he said.
Justice Davison sentenced Tran to 14 years and sevens months' imprisonment.
The seriousness of the offending required a minimum period of imprisonment of seven years, he said.