A drug smuggler caught importing liquid ecstasy while on bail for his "catcher" role in a massive nationwide drug running ring has today had an extra four months added to his jail term.
Reghardt Roux, 32, was jailed at the High Court in Auckland last August for his part in an operation that imported cocaine, meth, MDMA and gamma-butyrolactone (GBL).
Roux, along with Rodney Martel, 40, Anthony Dawson, 29, Rachel Vincent, 34, and James Bell, 44, were all arrested as part of Customs' Operation Spar, which revealed New Zealand's third-largest life insurance company, Fidelity Life Assurance Company Ltd, was being used as "safe address" and "cover" to assist the importation of drugs into New Zealand.
Justice Matthew Palmer described Roux as a "catcher" because he helped organise the safe addresses, and sentenced him to 11 years and six months in jail.
But while on bail, he imported 1217 millilitres of the class-B controlled drug, GBL addressed to a property in the Phillipstown suburb of Christchurch.
He admitted the charge at Christchurch District Court today.
Judge Jane Farish said the offending was aggravated by the fact it occurred while he was on bail.
She said it was consistent with Justice Palmer's description of Roux being a catcher in what was a "reasonably sophisticated operation".
Judge Farish added an extra four months to Roux's already lengthy sentence that he is challenging at the Court of Appeal.
Last year, the court heard how Martel was the "mastermind" of the operation and when arrested was in possession of a rifle, fake passport and a large amount of cash. Vincent was regarded as a "senior manager" in the group.
Martel has previous convictions for the manufacture and supply of drugs, and was known as "big boss" to the group, court documents reveal.
Justice Palmer sentenced him to 18 years and six months' imprisonment and Vincent to 14 years and eight months' imprisonment.
Speaking to the Herald about Fidelity Life's unwitting involvement, former CEO Milton Jennings said Bell, who was an employee, was brought to Auckland from the Wellington office after he showed promise, however, it "never really materialised".
"Customs came to me and said, 'we believe your employee is importing drugs'," Jennings said.
He added investigators confiscated Bell's computer and searched his apartment, while Fidelity Life also carried out its own investigation.
However, he said Bell was "operating by himself" and the investigation turned up no further culprits in the company who were implicit in the scheme.
Jennings said Bell's offending was also made easier while he used the company as a drug drop-off because his desk was close to the mailroom.
In a statement to the Herald, the company said: "Fidelity Life was shocked and disappointed to learn of the offending by former employee James Bell."
"His employment was terminated in April 2016 as a result of the charges laid against him.
"We co-operated fully with the police throughout their investigation. Fidelity Life is an innocent party in this unfortunate matter and no other staff were implicated."