Police were set to lay criminal charges against a prominent New Zealand sportsman in relation to an international drug importation and supply conspiracy.

They suspected the star was involved in an international drug syndicate but felt they did not have enough solid evidence to secure a conviction so he was not charged.

The decision came in the case of Tevita Fangupo, Tevita Kulu and Toni Finau, who were on trial in the High Court at Auckland this month.

The trio faced dozens of charges after being accused of the importation and supply of methamphetamine and cocaine, and charged with the conspiracy to supply the drugs.


Today, a jury returned its verdicts for the men.

Before the verdicts were heard Justice Mathew Downs acknowledged supporters of the defendants who were in court for much of the trial.

He reminded them that verdicts were taken "in silence" and anyone who disturbed the court would be removed.

Fangupo was found guilty on multiple charges of importing and attempting to import methamphetamine, conspiring to import methamphetamine, importing cocaine

He was acquitted on two charges of importing meth and one of conspiring to import the drug.

Tevita Fangupo. Photo / Supplied
Tevita Fangupo. Photo / Supplied

The jury found Kulu guilty on all but two of the charges he was facing including multiple counts of importing meth, conspiring to import meth, attempting to import meth, supplying and offering to supply meth, and importing cocaine.

He was acquitted on two charges of conspiring to import meth.

Finau was found guilty of multiple counts importing methamphetamine and cocaine, supplying methamphetamine and conspiring to supply methamphetamine.


The trio - who all stood in the dock flanked by security staff during the reading of the verdicts - were all remanded in custody until sentencing on July 30.

They had earlier pleaded guilty to firearms charges.

Fangupo was also charged over the kidnapping and killing of Thai woman Jindarat Prutsiriporn. He was, however, the only man found not guilty of her kidnapping or manslaughter, which was orchestrated by a Cambodian man with the help of the Head Hunters gang.

Early in the trial the Crown named the sports star in court and alleged he was linked to the offending.

They alleged he was involved in taking cash from New Zealand to the US for the purpose of it being used to purchase methamphetamine to import back here.

It was also alleged during the trial that the star was seen being provided with a bag of pills by Finau.


Despite the Crown's allegations - the star was not, and has not since been charged.

He has been granted interim name suppression.

The Herald has learned that after an extensive investigation, police considered charging the sports star alongside Fangupo, Kulu and Finau.

However, it was decided they did not have enough evidence to meet the threshold under the Solicitor-General's prosecution guidelines.

During the police investigation, however, text messages were obtained between a phone believed to belong to the sports star and people involved in the drug activity, sources tell the Herald.

Police considered executing a search warrant on his New Zealand address but suspected the phone they wanted to obtain would be with him.


That warrant was not executed.

Police was eventually decided that without any credible evidence, including the phone or proof the sports star had sent the messages himself, police would not charge him.

Under the Solicitor-General's prosecution guidelines police must have enough credible evidence for there to a "reasonable prospect" a jury will convict.

The sports star has refused to speak to police about any alleged involvement in the drug operation, Herald sources said.

It is understood, however, that the police inquiries over the sports star's alleged involvement in the drug conspiracy were extensive.

A legal source told the Herald there was no suggestion police had been dissuaded from charging the man because of his celebrity or sporting success.


"This was not put in the 'too hard basket', they wanted to charge him, they just didn't have enough to charge him," the source said.

Police initially declined to comment as the case was before the courts.

However after the verdicts were delivered Detective Inspector Scott Beard released a statement.

"While we are not in a position to comment on specific details regarding this case until after sentencing and the appeal period is complete, we can say that this was a lengthy investigation and the Auckland City Organised Crime Unit did some excellent work which has gotten us to where we are today," he said of the convictions.

He did not comment specifically about the sports star but offered more insight into the operation.

"In general, police do not confirm or deny whether specific individuals have been under investigation," he said.


"However, we can confirm that as part of our investigation police identified others who may have been involved in this criminal activity and made significant enquiries into this but there was insufficient evidence to charge.

"I want to be abundantly clear that this was not a case of any person or persons receiving special treatment.

"Police staff carried out a very thorough investigation and I think today's verdicts speak for themselves."

Beard said the case "once again" highlighted the involvement of gangs in the importation and sale and supply of methamphetamine into New Zealand with "absolutely no regard for the destruction and harm it causes to individuals, families and whanau".

"Police will continue to target those people who think it is okay to infect our communities with illegal drugs and where we have the evidence, charge them and place them before the courts," said Beard.

"I would like to thank the police staff who worked hard on this investigation, along with Crown Prosecutors and Customs for their assistance in this matter."