The man who orchestrated the kidnapping of an Auckland mother of three using the Head Hunters' hit squad has lost his bid to overturn a manslaughter conviction and his sentence.
Seng Lek Liev was jailed for 12 years and four months' for the kidnapping and killing of Jindarat Prutsiriporn after a 10-week trial in 2017.
The Thai woman was held hostage in several places around Auckland for 22 hours during late February and early March 2016 after being coaxed out of her house under the pretence of a proposed drug deal.
While being transported in the boot of a car the 50-year-old was able to pry open the hatch and flung herself onto the road in a desperate bid to escape.
However, she hit her head and died in hospital two days later.
Eleven others were arrested following Prutsiriporn's death and six went to trial over manslaughter and kidnapping charges, the rest earlier pleading guilty.
But last month, Liev, a slightly built Cambodian man known in criminal circles as Cambo Jack, sought to overturn his manslaughter conviction and sentence in the Court of Appeal.
He advanced his conviction appeal on the basis that the trial judge, Justice Matthew Palmer, erred in his directions to the jury about reasonable foreseeability in the context of the manslaughter. Liev also challenged his sentence on the grounds that the starting point was too high and the judge's approach resulted in unfair disparity between him and his co-offenders.
At his sentencing, Justice Palmer found Liev's offending to be "the worst of those involved due to his instigating and supervisory role".
"Because [the victim] died we don't know exactly what happened to her in the sort of detail like many other kidnappings," the judge said.
"We do know that she was taken by threat to herself and her family who was in the house. She was taken by a large group of large people including gang members, who had planned her taking carefully. She was held for 22 hours without food or water and she soiled herself and she was bound in the boot of a car for two-and-a-half hours."
The Court of Appeal judges, Justice Lynton Stevens, Justice Ailsa Duffy and Justice Robert Dobson, however, agreed with the High Court judge today.
"Mr Liev was the architect, instigator and director of the overall offending. He arranged for others to provide the muscle. The co-offenders sought direction from him where and when required," the Court of Appeal judgment reads.
The trio of judges also agreed with the Crown's argument on appeal that the kidnapping "was highly premeditated group offending involving gangs and affiliates with the prospect they would be paid for their involvement".
"Despite the lack of evidence of actual physical violence or proven use of a weapon, the kidnapping involved the prolonged detention of a vulnerable 50-year-old woman. There is no doubt she would have been terrified during the ordeal and it was her fear that caused her to escape from the boot of the car," the decision reads.
The appeal against conviction and sentence were both dismissed, the judges said.
Following the trial, the Herald published extensive details of Liev's scheme to kidnap Prutsiriporn, however, it remains unknown exactly why she was taken.
The Crown's case at trial against Liev, who was on bail for violent offending at the time, was that the kidnapping was the result of bad blood between the pair over money and drugs.
Prutsiriporn was involved in the criminal world and had been jailed for importing methamphetamine. She was also on active charges at the time of her death.
Liev hired the Head Hunters' "ghost unit" as muscle for the snatch and grab job for the former Napier woman, affectionately known as Nui.
An earlier attempt to kidnap Prutsiriporn was aborted after members of the ghost unit were disturbed by nearby police.
The case also revealed the ghost unit had a source working for Vehicle Testing New Zealand, who provided the gang with the name and address of a police informant.