A New Zealander who left the United Kingdom after allegations he smuggled more than $8.5 million worth of cocaine into the country says extradition to stand trial would be "oppressive", a court heard today.
Truck driver Franciscus Maria Schaapveld, 60, was stopped at the UK border after a long-haul trip from Europe on April 21, 2012.
Authorities allegedly found more than $8.5m worth of cocaine in the trailer.
He was detained overnight, spoken to by police and released the next day on bail.
However, dual citizen Schaapveld moved from Britain to New Zealand six weeks later.
In August 2013, Interpol in Wellington confirmed with UK authorities that Schaapveld was living in Christchurch and working as a driver for Fonterra.
The United Kingdom wants to extradite Schaapveld to stand trial for cocaine smuggling.
He was arrested in April last year.
Four of Schaapveld's alleged co-conspirators were convicted in 2015 and sentenced to a combined 80 years' imprisonment between them.
According to the Mirror newspaper, the "organised criminal network" used their "extensive knowledge and expertise in the haulage industry to smuggle cash out of the UK while bringing in Class A and B drugs".
At a Christchurch District Court hearing today, Crown prosecutor Karyn South, appearing for UK authorities, argued for a "fast-track" extradition.
The only legal challenge was whether there are any circumstances of the case where extradition would be "unjust or oppressive", the court heard.
Schaapveld said he never attempted to hide in New Zealand, living under his real name, and trying to move on with his life.
He had suffered grief from the death of a partner, and experienced depression as a result of the proceedings. He also had type-2 diabetes and other health issues and said that his elderly mother would find it difficult if he left New Zealand, the court heard.
However, South said none of those arguments, standing alone or put together, meet the very high threshold required to amount to injustice or oppression.
Much of the time delays in the case were also of Schaapveld's own doing, South claimed.
"It's highly significant when assessing any delay that Mr Schaapveld opted to leave the UK jurisdiction and relocate to the other side of the planet knowing he was released on bail just six weeks earlier," she said.
While a judge could refer the case to the Justice Minister to take in Schaapveld's personal circumstances and exercise discretion of compassion, such referrals were "extremely rare".
South understood that just one referral had been made to the Justice Minister in the last 10 years, and that was declined.
Defence counsel Kerryn Beaton argued that Schaapveld's surrender would be oppressive after what she called "prosecutorial delays".
She was critical of the delay that took place from March 19, 2013, when Schaapveld was supposed to answer pre-charge bail, to when a warrant for his arrest was issued in England in December 2015 – more than two-and-a-half years later.
Schaapveld, who is the main carer for his elderly mother, never left the UK to avoid his responsibilities, Beaton said.
Christchurch District Court Judge Jane Farish earlier ruled that Schaapveld should be extradited.
It was appealed and another district court judge ordered a rehearing on the grounds that Schaapveld had received inadequate representation.
However, the High Court determined that the appeal decision shouldn't have been made at district court level, and ordered a new extradition hearing.
Judge Alistair Garland, who heard today's arguments, reserved his decision.