Crown prosecutor lays out drug conspiracy allegations against Comanchero president Pasilika Naufahu, reveals alleged co-conspirator at the ‘heart of the case’ has pleaded guilty and will be called to give evidence against the club leader.
A drug smuggler described as the “heart of the case” against the Comancheros is expected to give evidence against the club’s president.
Pasilika Naufahu, who established the New Zealand chapter of the Australian motorcycle club after leaving Australia in 2016, is on trial in the High Court at Auckland on money laundering and drug conspiracy charges.
Alongside Naufahu in the dock is Connor Michael Tamati Clausen, a fellow Comanchero, accountant Wiwini Himi Hakaraia, as well as a woman and a media personality who both have name suppression.
Clausen faces a charge of conspiracy to supply $1 million of pseudoephedrine, a Class B drug, with Naufahu.
As well as the Class B conspiracy allegation, Naufahu is charged with conspiracy to import a Class A drug.
The defendants were all arrested and charged in April 2019 following a covert police investigation called Operation Nova and have pleaded not guilty to the alleged offences.
In opening the Crown case against the accused, prosecutor David Johnstone talked about a man charged with the same Class A and Class B drug conspiracy as Naufahu and Clausen.
The man had now pleaded guilty to those offences. The prosecutor told the jury that the individual was at the “heart of the case” in the investigation into the Comanchero MC, as a money handler and depositing cash into different bank accounts.
While the Comancheros were careful to avoid police surveillance, Johnstone said he was not as discreet.
This morning Johnstone revealed that the Comancheros’ alleged middle man will be called as a witness for the Crown in the trial against Naufahu and Clausen.
He imported a “substantial volume of methamphetamine” in late 2018 and early 2019, of his own accord, said Johnstone.
But the prosecutor expected the witness would tell the jury about an attempt to import a Class A drug, either cocaine or methamphetamine, in an agreement which the Crown alleges Naufahu was part of.
“That will be something for you to pay particular attention to,” Johnstone said.
To prove a charge of conspiracy, Johnstone said the Crown must prove two or more individuals came to an agreement to commit a criminal act.
The Crown does not need to prove the alleged criminal plot went ahead as planned, and in this case, Johnstone said there was reason to believe the deal fell over.
“Whether you’re sure Naufahu and Clausen were part of the agreement, is a matter for you,” Johnstone told the jury.
He Sha, a Sydney hairdresser, has already been convicted for his part in the $1 million pseudoephedrine conspiracy.
Money laundering charges were laid against those who allegedly helped the Comancheros hide illegitimate income, said Johnstone.
“These were the trappings of a luxurious but totally unjustified lifestyle. Each of the defendants worked together towards the material benefit on behalf of the organised criminal group.
It was the second half of the Crown’s opening address which started on the first day of the trial on Monday.
Yesterday Johnstone said Naufahu, his fellow Comancheros, their partners and families then commenced a lifestyle of enjoying the material benefits that flowed from a whole series of criminal offences, he said.
“The success of the group, until the police intervened, brought a whole range of things with it…Brand new Range Rover after brand new Range Rover.”
Properties including a $1.3 million Bucklands Beach house, ostentatious motorcycles and trips out on the harbour on a luxury launch, Johnstone added.
That $1.3m home was bought under the name of Naufahu’s 7-year-old son as the purchaser, he said.
The trappings of success brought its own problems, however, said Johnstone.
“The problem of course was how to hide the crimes that were generating all this money.”
A lot of pretending went on to conceal the true source of the money, said Johnstone, and the group used a range of tactics to pretend the source of the money was legitimate.
Some people connected to the case had gone to lengths to try to stop the police intercepting their communications, the court heard.
“This case is full of secrets and pretending,” Johnstone said.
The court heard that Auckland lawyer Andrew Simpson was used to set up trusts for Naufahu and others.
As money was split from the lawyer’s account into these trusts it would end up “mixed up” and “churned around” in a bid to gain the appearance of legitimacy, Johnstone said.
The charges of money laundering against Pasilika Naufahu relate to the purchase of a Ford Ranger, a Bentley and a Jacon SG3 Trailer concrete pump, which together add up to more than $212,700.
Wiwini Himi Hakaraia, an accountant, faces a charge of participating in an organised criminal group, two charges of possession of a class A drug for supply and three charges of money laundering.
The 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 costing $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 jury trial is expected to last four weeks and is presided over by Justice Graham Lang.
Source: NZ Herald by Jared Savage