Merkins Bah Agu was vulnerable when he started being a "catcher" for meth hauls as they came across the border in mules' suitcases, exercise equipment and handbags, a judge has ruled.

The 53-year-old was jailed for 16 years at the High Court at Auckland this morning.

Last November he was found guilty of four charges of importing methamphetamine and one count of attempting to possess the drug.

Today Justice John Fogarty said Agu was seen as an expendable person by "the really serious criminals who are normally not caught at all".


"There was no evidence that you led an extravagant lifestyle, that you were making substantial income from illegal activities.

"You had a modest lifestyle, you had lost [your] job in a liquor store. You presented more as a vulnerable person likely to be seduced into a catching role."

In 2015, Agu gave his, his girlfriend's and his ex-wife's address to a drug syndicate to send packages to.

Customs first intercepted a parcel of handbags sent from Hong Kong and China, two of which contained meth, then a shipment of women's platform shoes in which more drugs were found.

But his downfall was a retired American couple who were stopped smuggling 7kg of meth in the linings of their pink suitcases at Auckland Airport.

They agreed to help police track down the man they'd been in touch with.

The suitcases, with the drugs removed, were put in a storage facility, which Agu accessed. He was stopped about 100m away.

Agu told police he'd been paid $500 to move the suitcases.

A shipment of three treadmills containing 2kg of meth addressed to his girlfriend were intercepted three days after his arrest.

In total, Agu was charged with bringing in more than 33kg of methamphetamine.

Defence lawyer Terry Darby today said Agu's "foolishness" by providing his own addresses showed he was a "low-level errand boy".

Justice Fogarty referred to a police expert witness who said the offender had been quite stupid.

"Talk about letting yourself in for it."

The judge said there was no evidence that Agu was involved in the decisions as to the mode to be used for bringing in drugs.

"You were a mere catcher."

Justice Fogarty sentenced Agu to 16 years in prison with no minimum term.

He also commended Agu with how he'd conducted himself throughout the trial.

"I was impressed and I recognised the dignity with which you've conducted yourself throughout and do I hope that you can learn from this experience, do your time then never be before the court again."