A money handler described as being "at the heart" of the Crown case in the trial of the Comancheros president claims he helped import Class A drugs because he feared for his life.

The man claimed he had no choice and likened the moment his arrest finally came to salvation.

Gang head Pasilika Naufahu, fellow Comanchero Connor Michael Tamati Clausen, accountant Wiwini Himi Hakaraia and two others, who have name suppression, deny a slew of serious criminal charges.

The five were arrested after high-profile police raids that followed a covert investigation dubbed Operation Nova.

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The money handler, who cannot be named for legal reasons, gave evidence to the High Court at Auckland via video link from within a New Zealand prison.

This man said he first knew of the gang leader through his brother and was asked to do some work for him.

Further, he told the court then-lawyer Andrew Simpson had advised him to make deposits at banks in amounts less than $10,000 for legal reasons.

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

"I didn't doubt him because a lawyer was supposed to give me good sound advice ... I thought okay, it should be all right."

He told the court he had already admitted his role in importing Class A drugs.

"I was involved in that because my address was used. I was pressured."

But he insisted that really he had no choice as his life was on the line and his loved ones were under the same threat.

During cross-examination Naufahu's lawyer Ron Mansfield asked if the man had heard the of the phrase "hiding behind God".

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The man had not but agreed he proclaimed to be a man of faith.

Mansfield said despite that the man by his own admission had been involved in importing illicit drugs and suggested his story was a "self-serving lie".

"Can I answer that?" the man said.

"Well I hope you do," Mansfield replied.

Defence lawyer Ron Mansfield pictured outside the High Court at Auckland last year. Photo / Michael Craig
Defence lawyer Ron Mansfield pictured outside the High Court at Auckland last year. Photo / Michael Craig

The man emphasised that his family had been at risk.

"Just about every day you did exactly what you were told or you were a dead man."

He said when he was arrested early last year he was relieved.

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He claimed he hinted at the nature of the pressure he was under telling the officer "you have no idea what you have done".

In other words, he said, he had been freed. "Salvation has come knocking on my door."

He told the court the threats had come from a drug smuggler abroad and his own brother.
However, he said he could only co-operate with police when others were arrested.

He also told the court multiple times he believed his address was going to receive kitchen equipment rather than illicit drugs.

Mansfield questioned the man's motive in giving evidence in the trial.

"I need to get this off of my chest ... I owe it to New Zealand," the man said.

He said he had never had so much as a parking ticket before and wanted to "wash his hands clean".

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"I'm not an actor otherwise I would be in Hollywood."

Mansfield replied suggesting the man was in prison because he was a liar and that he was saying whatever would benefit himself most.

The charges

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.

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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.

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

The last defendant, a woman who 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 last week, is expected to last four weeks and is presided over by Justice Graham Lang.

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