Police surveillance in a sting against the Comancheros included hundreds of intercepted calls and texts in a wider group, a court has heard.

The president of the NZ chapter of the gang Pasilika Naufahu is on trial in the High Court at Auckland accused of money laundering and drug conspiracy charges.

Naufahu and others were arrested last year in a high-profile police raid that followed a covert investigation dubbed Operation Nova.

Also on trial is fellow Comanchero Connor Michael Tamati Clausen, accountant Wiwini Himi Hakaraia, and a woman and a media personality who both have name suppression.

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Today, Detective Sergeant Damian Espinosa​ told the jury that police surveillance had included seeing the gang leader meet a money handler in March, 2018, at a Bucklands Beach park.

Crown prosecutor David Johnstone has previously said this money handler was at the "heart of the case" in the investigation into the Comanchero gang.

During cross-examination Naufahu's defence lawyer Ron Mansfield challenged any police description of what his client was doing on his phone at the park as an assumption.

Pasilika Naufahu, Comanchero MC president, pictured during the first day of his trial. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Pasilika Naufahu, Comanchero MC president, pictured during the first day of his trial. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Naufahu could have been doing an internet search, sending an email, dialling a number, scrolling various social media or just fidgeting around with it, Mansfield said.

"Let's face it he could have been doing any number of things when he was using this cell phone."

A more appropriate police record would be to just say he was using his cellphone, he said.

Police intercepted calls with associates from Fiji, the court has heard, that involved the same money handler in New Zealand.

On July 12, 2018, the money handler told one of those associates he had spoken to the "president of the market here, you know what I mean?"

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The other man replied, "I know all the code words bro, yeah."

The money handler went on to say they had set up a company for the Cassava - which the Crown alleges is a code name for drugs.

More calls still were heard by the jury between the money handler and then Auckland lawyer Andrew Simpson.

In one conversation they can be heard discussing dropping "apples" in baskets if placing nine at each drop.

In another, Simpson said in drops under 10 bank staff were not going to be worried.

He said if the deposit went into Simpson's trust account "they will happily take it".

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"They will ask for your ID but it is not going to get flagged," he said.

Andrew Simpson, then a lawyer, helped the gang. Photo / Sam Hurley
Andrew Simpson, then a lawyer, helped the gang. Photo / Sam Hurley

The court heard a call on July 11, 2018, in which Simpson told the money handler he was about to "swing past the bank" to do his bit.

"I'll be good to go for this afternoon," he said.

The money handler wanted it to be quick "so he can get rid of it today".

Later that same day he called the lawyer again: "Hello buddy. Sorry, sorry to bother you but ah".

"That's alright," Simpson replied.

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Got a message "from the bro" because he was waiting at the car dealer, the man said.

"Yeah, yeah, he thought it was going to be done before lunch today," he said.

"He wants to get that done soon as like, he could ah, transfer it out, oh, over to them ..."

"I'll do that now," Simpson said, later texting that he had put 100 into an account.

In a call between the same pair on July 17, 2018, the money handler asked how to buy a car for a man he did not mention by name and if it could be put in the trust's name.

"It's a bit embarrassing if ah, you know, he gets caught speeding or something," the lawyer said, adding he would get the infringement notice.

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It would be "kind of silly" for a trust to own a car, the lawyer said, as those things should really be in an individual's name.

The accusations

Naufahu faces charges of conspiracy to import a Class A drug and conspiring to supply a Class B drug, as well as three charges of money laundering.

The charges of money laundering relate to the purchase of a Ford Ranger, Bentley and a Jacon SG3 Trailer concrete pump, which together add up to more than $212,700.

Hakaraia is accused of participating in an organised criminal group, two counts of possession of a class A drug for supply and three counts of money laundering.

Clausen is charged with conspiring to supply the Class B drug pseudoephedrine.

Connor Clausen during the first day of his trial at the High Court at Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Connor Clausen during the first day of his trial at the High Court at Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A media personality, who has name suppression, faces a charge of participating in an organised criminal group and two charges of money laundering.

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The money laundering charges relate to the purchase of two concrete pumps totalling $439,700.

The last defendant, who also has name suppression, faces one charge of money laundering by depositing more than $292,000 in cash into various bank accounts.

The trial, which began on Monday, is expected to last four weeks and is presided over by Justice Graham Lang.

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