A Sydney man faces a lengthy stint in a New Zealand prison after being caught conspiring with associates of the Comanchero gang over a $1 million drug deal in Auckland.
He was apprehended as part the same sting by the National Organised Crime Group, which arrested several others, including an Auckland lawyer, media personality, accountant and leaders of the motorcycle club, the Herald on Sunday can reveal.
Now, details of the conspiracy, police wire taps and listening bugs in cars, and a $1m cash for pseudoephedrine deal can be reported after court documents were released to the Herald.
In early 2018, police began a covert investigation, code-named Operation Nova, into the importation and supply of controlled drugs and associated money laundering. It included the interception of the private communications of people accused of bringing drugs, including methamphetamine into the country.
As part of the operation, authorities discovered Australian-Chinese national He Sha, who travelled to New Zealand to help facilitate the supply of several kilograms of pseudoephedrine in September 2018.
When Sha arrived in Auckland on September 15 on a flight from Sydney he was searched by Customs officers and gave a bogus alibi - claiming he was in the country for a holiday and to visit some friends.
Three days later, another person, the identity of whom is concealed in court documents for legal reasons, also arrived in Auckland on a flight from Sydney to orchestrate a drug deal on behalf of the group.
The following day, a meeting was held by two members of the group at various locations in South Auckland before one waited for a rendezvous with Sha, who was staying at a central city hotel.
Sha then spent the remainder of the day with the person driving around Auckland. They were making arrangements for several kilograms of pseudoephedrine, an ingredient that can be used to manufacture meth, to be sold by Sha to a buyer the next day, court documents reveal.
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On September 20, another meeting was organised with Sha in a white Great Wall
vehicle in Papakura, but unbeknown to them police had bugged the car and were listening to their conversations.
Sha was recorded talking to an unknown man in Mandarin and made comments about "them bring[ing] the stuff over". He also referred to a "partner" and "the people above".
Throughout that afternoon Sha and his contact further negotiated how the sale of pseudoephedrine would go down. While Sha was on the phone to the mystery man he was told by his contact $1m in cash would be arriving.
But that the person with the money did not want to arrive "until the pseudo's here". Sha said on the phone: "Have you understood what has been said? You just get him/her to bring it over and it's finished".
He also told the man on the phone: "Yesterday you did not stood them up once, if you stand them up again then ... can't stand them up again, must do it today".
In another phone call tapped by the police he asked "which middleman" could be contacted to confirm the arrangement.
As part of the proposed deal, court documents show, "runners" were to be used to bring the pseudoephedrine and cash for the exchange. Court papers also show Sha was taking instructions from someone he referred to as "boss".
The identities of the other players involved have been redacted in court documents provided to the Herald for legal reasons.
At about 3.50pm a member of the gang arrived carrying the $1m. However, the person who was to bring the pseudoephedrine failed to show.
Shortly after the cash arrived, Sha said he'd been advised by a source the deal was off and the men scurried away.
The following day, September 21, the group continued to conspire over breakfast to complete the deal, voice messages reveal. But the deal never eventuated and police swooped in, charging Sha in June last year.
After pleading guilty to conspiring to supply a class B controlled drug, the 33-year-old now faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
The slightly built man was due to be sentenced last week in the Auckland District Court but, without an interpreter present, the case was adjourned. He is now due to be sentenced tomorrow.
After the Herald sought access to Sha's court file he made a hasty bid for name suppression, nervous, his lawyer Michael Kan said, that the Comanchero associates would learn of his true identity.
Sha claimed he used an alias when dealing with the gang and believed the Comancheros did not know his true identity.
Judge Claire Ryan, however, said his co-defendants, who were also arrested as part of Operation Nova, have known his name for more than a year after evidence was disclosed by prosecutors.
This year, the gang's vice president for the Auckland chapter Tyson Daniels and lawyer Andrew Simpson were jailed for laundering Comanchero cash.
One transaction involved A$32,000 deposited into Simpson's trust account by alleged Sydney-based drug dealer Valovalo Peter Vaiusu, who was the subject of a New South Wales police investigation.
Vaiusu was arrested after stepping off a plane from New Zealand and is allegedly connected to a Sydney storage unit where bags of cash, 13 firearms - including five AR-15 semi-automatic rifles - and several kilograms of cocaine and meth were found.
Auckland president Pasilika Naufahu and several others, including an accountant and media personality, were arrested in a series of raids last year. They have denied the allegations against them and are set for a High Court trial in September.
More than 80 police officers were involved in the raids, which also led to about $4m of assets being seized, including firearms and several luxury vehicles such as a Rolls-Royce Wraith and gold-plated Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Police have said they believe the gang was importing drugs into New Zealand and has laundered millions of dollars. The Comancheros in Aotearoa are nicknamed the "501s" because of the "character grounds" section of the immigration law used to deport many of them from Australia.
One murder has been committed in New Zealand on the orders of the Comancheros since the gang gained a foothold here - Epalahame Tu'uheava was shot in April 2018. His wife survived the execution-style shootings despite being shot twice in the head. The three killers are now serving life sentences.
Investigators have also said they believe the Comancheros have been assisted by notorious international drug syndicate the Sinaloa cartel, which was founded by imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.
The Sinaloa cartel is considered to be the largest drug-trafficking organisation in the world.
In mid-2018, a Herald investigation revealed the growing influence of Mexican and South American cartels in New Zealand hoping to cash in on a highly profitable drug trade.
Since then, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been granted permission by the US Congress to set up offices in Auckland and Wellington and target the cartels.