A Tauranga stevedore and eight other men accused of being part of an alleged plot to smuggle hundreds of kilograms of cocaine and P with links to a Mexican cartel are heading to trial.
The Crown prosecution case against Maurice Oliver Swinton, 42, from Te Puke, and eight other defendants was called in the Tauranga High Court yesterday.
Swinton earlier denied a joint charge of conspiring with others to import a Class A drug into New Zealand.
The court earlier heard that Swinton worked casually for C3 Limited, a stevedoring business contracted to the Port of Tauranga.
Eight other men have also denied various drug importation and/or other drug offences.
The charges against the nine men stem from an eight-month covert investigation by the National Organised Crime Group and Customs investigators.
Operation Tarpon targeted those allegedly involved in conspiring to import large quantities of cocaine and P in New Zealand with links to a Mexican cartel.
According to the police, hundreds of kilograms of cocaine were to be concealed inside shipping containers, but the alleged conspiracy plot was disrupted before the shipment reached New Zealand.
Jeffrey Maraenui Gear, 43, from Ngongotaha, will defend two joint charges of conspiring with other defendants to manufacture P and possession of the drug for supply.
Angel Gabriel Gavito, 26, from Ōmokoroa, has denied seven charges, including possession of P for supply, importing cocaine and money laundering offences.
Rotorua carver Tamai Waitai, 34, denied five joint charges of conspiring with others to import cocaine, manufacturing P and possession of the drug for supply.
Rotorua builder James Bradley Dickson, 38, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of importing cocaine into New Zealand on December 27, 2020 and February 2 this year.
Another defendant from Rotorua, whose identity is suppressed, has also denied conspiring with others to import cocaine and methamphetamine.
Te Kaha fisherman Tangaroa David Demant, 57, will defend five charges, including conspiring with others to import cocaine and manufacture methamphetamine.
Manuel Gonzalez, 62, from Mt Albert, will defend a joint charge of possessing P for supply.
The ninth defendant, from Auckland, has pleaded not guilty to importing cocaine, as well as possessing cocaine and P for supply.
Crown prosecutor Duncan McWilliam told Justice Graham Lang that another large tract of disclosure would be provided to the defendants' legal counsel before Christmas.
William said the jury trial set to begin in the Rotorua High Court on February 13, 2023 was expected to take four weeks, but further discussions on the trial length was needed.
Lang further remanded the defendants to next appear in Tauranga High Court on February 17 for a further trial review hearing.