A prominent New Zealand sports star has lost name suppression after being linked to an international drug importation and supply conspiracy.
However, he will keep his name a secret for now after his lawyer, former Solicitor-General Michael Heron QC, says he will challenge the ruling in the Court of Appeal.
The sports star was granted interim name suppression by Justice Mathew Downs at the start of the High Court trial of Tevita Fangupo, Tevita Kulu and Toni Finau earlier this year.
Towards the end of the trial, however, Heron sought permanent name suppression for his client after connections between the sports star and the trio were revealed.
Today, Justice Downs declined to grant the sportsperson his desired secrecy when he released his redacted decision.
But an interim suppression order will remain until a hearing in the Court of Appeal, which is expected to be held in July, Heron told the Herald today.
The sports star was never charged by police over his alleged association to the drug syndicate.
Police were, however, set to lay criminal charges against him but felt they did not have enough evidence to secure a conviction, the Herald earlier reported.
Fangupo, Kulu and Finau 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.
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.
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 of importing methamphetamine and cocaine, supplying meth and conspiring to supply methamphetamine.
The trio will be sentenced next month.
During the trial, the Crown named the sports star and alleged he was linked to the offending.
The sports star was accused of taking cash from New Zealand to the US to buy meth 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.
After an extensive investigation, the Herald learned, 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 text messages were obtained between a phone believed to belong to the sports star and people involved in the drug activity, sources have told 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 and lapsed.
The sports star has refused to speak to police about any alleged involvement in the drug operation, Herald sources said.
After the trial, Detective Inspector Scott Beard said there was a lengthy investigation into the drug syndicate.
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 inquiries 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."