NZ Comanchero trial: Charges against media personality dismissed, accountant fined on drugs charges

An accountant cleared of money laundering on behalf of the Comancheros has been fined $2000 for possessing cocaine.

A trial, involving laundering and drug charges against Comanchero president Pasilika Naufahu, Connor Michael Tamati Clausen, accountant Wiwini Himi Hakaraia, a media personality who has name suppression, and a woman also with name suppression took a turn on Thursday when a number of the charges against the defendants were dismissed.

The five were earlier arrested following a series of raids across Auckland in April 2019 in which more than $3.7 million in assets was seized along with luxury cars, motorbikes, high-end luggage and jewellery.

On Thursday, the media personality, who was originally charged with participating in an organised criminal group and two charges of money laundering, had his charges formally discharged by Justice Graham Lang.

Hakaraia, 42, also had three charges of money laundering and one charge of participating in an organised criminal group dismissed.

However, on Thursday morning Hakaraia admitted two charges of possessing a class A drug.

The court heard that 27.6 grams of cocaine was located inside a Nike shoe along with 18.2 grams of powder containing cocaine and methamphetamine inside his home.

Paul Wicks QC, acting on behalf of Hakaraia, said at the time of the police search, his client was a regular cocaine user, but was not dependent on the drug.

“He was able to use his financial position to purchase in bulk,” Wicks said.

The court heard the accountant ceased his use of drugs after he was arrested.

“He’s permanently put this behind him in this life, he’s learnt a significant lesson,” Wicks said.

The lawyer said Hakaraia’s good character and his position as a leader in the community with various charitable trusts should be taken into account.

On Thursday afternoon, Justice Lang convicted Hakaraia and fined him $1000 on each charge.

Justice Lang said Hakaraia should consider himself fortunate the Crown and defence agreed on a fine, given the amount of cocaine would usually warrant a prison based sentence or community based sentence.

“This is possession at the top level,” Justice Lang said.

Justice Lang told the jury the evidence against the defendants on the charges that were dismissed was insufficient.

Naufahu has been charged with conspiring to supply the class B drug pseudoephedrine and two charges of money laundering in relation to a Bentley and a Ford Ranger.

On Thursday, he also had one charge of conspiring to import a class A drug and one charge of money laundering withdrawn.

Clausen remains charged with conspiring to supply the class B drug pseudoephedrine and the woman continues to deny engaging in money laundering.

Crown prosecutor David Johnstone will sum the case up to the jury on Friday.

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Source: Stuff