The crown case against a Czech national convicted of smuggling a drug into New Zealand has been labelled "fanciful" in an appeal this afternoon.
Jan Antolik, real name Karel Sroubek, was jailed in mid-2016 for five years and nine months after a jury found him guilty of bringing the Class-B MDMA powder into the country hidden among legitimate goods.
The conviction came four years after a judge discharged him without conviction, despite the kick boxer being found guilty of having a false passport and lying to immigration officials.
In the Court of Appeal in Wellington today, Antolik's lawyer, David Jones, QC, said his client was framed for smuggling in 5kg of MDMA powder, which can be pressed into Ecstasy pills.
The substance was found by Customs inside a shipping container in Auckland, which also had fruit juice in it. The container of juice was ordered by Antolik's company.
"The crown case essentially was: your company, your container, your drugs."
Jones said the Crown relied on the fact Antolik had received a bolt seal in the post, concealed inside a buffer machine.
It was suggested Antolik would be able to get into the bonded Customs area, past steel fences and "electrification", find his container amongst hundreds of others, break the seal on the container and replace it with the seal he'd received in the post to make it look as if nothing had been tampered with, and leave with the drugs.
"That, in my submission, is a fanciful proposition and one that would have been roundly ridiculed by the Crown if it had been put up by the defence, and rightly so because it makes absolutely no sense."
Jones said the bolt number and its authenticity were never ascertained by the Crown, and no inquiries were made as to who placed the seal on the container in the first place, thus being the last person to have access to the contents.
"The defence couldn't say, 'Well, this is the last point of contact, this is an authentic seal ... if it's an authentic seal and it's on the container we should be able to find out who the last person was who actually had the seal and ... who had the last opportunity to put something in it that was contraband."
Jones said a "reverse onus" had been placed on Antolik to prove himself innocent.
The appeal brought forward "fresh evidence" gathered after the trial by a private investigator.
"The crown case essentially [was]: 'The container's arrived, it was ordered through your company, you must have known that it had drugs in it.' How he knew was never articulated."
Jones said the defence that Antolik was set up by someone who "wanted to get him" was "ridiculed" by the Crown during the trial, but evidence gathered by the private investigator after the trial supported the case.
There was an indication that someone involved in the alleged framing had tipped off police and Customs to the drugs, he said.
Police had set up an operation called Operation Keyhole before even opening the container to find the drugs, and Jones questioned why they would need an operation for a simple container check.
Crown lawyer John Pike said Antolik's conviction was down to his lack of credibility around possession of the bolt seal, and why he took no action after receiving it in the mail.
"Both sides are in a position of saying of the other side nothing of this makes sense," Pike said.
Antolik observed the appeal hearing via audio-visual link.
The judges reserved their decision.