The "diligent" book-keeper of a Mongrel Mob drug operation was nabbed when he was in a car crash with a truck in Invercargill.

Police searched Michael Lawrence Wati, 45, after the crash in February last year and found 36g of methamphetamine, 60g of cannabis and $14,800 in cash as well as a book
detailing transactions in code.

Wati was sentenced yesterday to three and-a-half years jail when he appeared via audio visual television link, in the Invercargill District Court on 111 charges of possession of methamphetamine for supply, possession of cannabis for supply and driving while forbidden.

Judge Brian Callaghan told the court that up until the age of 10, Wati had a relatively supportive family life.

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"Then at the age of 10, things fell apart for him when his father died."

He said Wati began sleeping rough, spent some time in state care and staying with various family members before he joined the Mongrel Mob at the age of 20.

"It's understandable in a way when young people do not have support in their whole structure of their life, that they find support and camaraderie in such organisations."

The court heard how Wati had moved to Australia where he worked as a security guard.

He was attacked while working so returned to the North Island where his whānau and iwi lived but became associated with gangs again. It was then he decided to move to Southland for a new start.

Judge Callaghan said once Wati moved to Invercargill, the former gang member reverted to his old ways.

"Although he came here to make a new start, he did not. He had to rely on the gang for his financial support, so to a large extent he walked back into the gang community which is probably a decision he clearly now regrets."

Crown solicitor Rikki Donnelly said in his submission Wati was an integral part of the
operation.

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"Mr Wati was fundamental to this operation, a diligent book keeper," Donnelly said.

Judge Callaghan did not accept the Crown's suggestion.

"There is no evidence of any substantial wealth or of property, like cars, that he obtained,"
Judge Callaghan said.

"Whilst he supplied drugs clearly he wasn't getting rewarded financially.

"He wasn't what people may say is a drug baron but one of the workers — not integral, but probably replaceable."

Defence counsel Hugo Young said Wati had no previous convictions for drug offending and had only shoplifting and minor traffic offences.

"Previous infractions are very minor matters," he said.

The Judge ordered for the drugs to be destroyed and forfeiture of the $14,800 in cash.