A senior gang leader who has been outspoken about helping "broken people '' make positive changes in their lives has been charged with importing and distributing methamphetamine.
Name suppression has today been lifted from Mark Anthony Griffiths, or "Griff", who was a longstanding member the Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom when he was arrested in November following a covert police investigation.
The chapter has generated headlines in recent years for establishing an all-female chapter, guarding their local mosque after the terror attacks in Christchurch and delivering food to 3000 vulnerable people during Covid-19 lockdown.
The 50-year-old Griffiths was sometimes the public face of the Waikato chapter, which left the Mongrel Mob's national council two years ago, in what they say was an effort to forge a new kaupapa (founding values) of empowerment for those marginalised in society.
He gave media interviews about the positive changes made by the chapter, in order to help gang members study and get jobs, and even gave a guest lecture at the University of Canterbury.
"We understand a lot of the fellas who join an organisation [like the Mongrel Mob], the majority are broken people, coming from broken dreams, broken promises and broken households," Griffiths told the Herald following a hui hosted at the gang's Hamilton pad in 2019.
"So they're used to living the lifestyle ... we call it the 'Once were Warriors' lifestyle. They know the difference between doing dumb things and doing the right thing. So now it's about getting them into the habit of doing good, positive and constructive things."
Twelve months after the hui, Griffiths was charged with importing 2kg of methamphetamine, as well as possession of the Class-A drug for supply, and supplying the drug.
He was also charged with possession of the gamma-butyrolactone for supply, or GBL. Sometimes known as 'rinse' or 'wazz', GBL is a liquid which makes users feel euphoric but can put them at risk of unconsciousness.
Griffiths has pleaded not guilty and the charges against him are unproven allegations at this stage.
Now that name suppression has been lifted, the news of a senior Waikato Mongrel Mob member being arrested comes just days after a political stoush involving the gang.
National and Act MPs have called for Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt to resign after he gave $200 as koha to the gang for hosting a hui in May, a decision which Labour minister Willie Jackson defended as tikanga Māori, or customary practice.
The charges against Griffiths are unrelated to the prosecution of three members of the Waikato Mongrel Mob, alleged to be involved in serious drug dealing and money laundering offences following Operation Equinox, the New Zealand off-shoot of the global FBI investigation called Operation Trojan Shield.
Sonny Fatupaito, the president of the Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom, said anyone facing criminal charges is innocent until proven guilty and he could not comment directly on the charges against Griffiths as the matter was before the court.
"I have zero tolerance for the importation, selling, supply and possession of methamphetamine within our organisation," Fatupaito said.
"My stance is well known across the Waikato region and throughout Aotearoa, and my continued focus as leader is to influence, educate and empower members to live positive, constructive, and productive lives, free from alcohol and drugs, steering members in a direction away from criminal offending, despite the negative, targeted bias driven by New Zealand's mainstream media and political organisations towards our organisation."
Dr Jarrod Gilbert, the author of Patched: The History of Gang Life in New Zealand, has previously told the Herald he has never seen anything like the Waikato Mongrel Mob.
He believes Sonny Fatupaito is genuine in his desire for change.
"I might be proven a fool here but I'm prepared to bet as we stand now - with the right to reserve changing my mind in the face of superior evidence - I have no doubt about that whatsoever."
He did not believe the Waikato chapter were "masterminding any nefarious PR strategy", but in a group with hundreds of members, Gilbert said there was always the possibility of individuals potentially committing crimes.