NZ Comanchero trial: ‘No mythical $1 million’ in failed drug deal, lawyer says

A man charged with supplying drugs alongside the president of the Comanchero motorcycle club was only involved with the case for two minutes and 19 seconds, a court has heard.

The trial against Pasilika Naufahu, Connor Michael Tamati Clausen and a woman with name suppression took a turn on Thursday when a number of the charges against Naufahu were dismissed.

The trio were 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.

Clausen has been charged alongside Naufahu with supplying the class B drug pseudoephedrine.

Simon Lance, acting on behalf of Clausen, closed his case to the jury on Friday afternoon, saying the trial had followed a “lengthy, thorough and very well-resourced” police investigation, which spanned 15 months.

“You might think nothing was really missed, yet Mr Clausen features for two minutes and 19 seconds on the 20th of September 2018 … [and that’s] really the beginning and the end of his involvement, nothing earlier and nothing later,” Lance said.

A video, taken by police, was again played to the court on Friday. It shows the brother of a man who the Crown says is at the “heart of the case” and an Australian hairdresser meeting with Clausen.

The hairdresser, He Sha, was jailed earlier this year after he admitted crossing the Tasman to sell pseudoephedrine in a failed deal.

Earlier on Friday, Crown prosecutor David Johnstone said Clausen was the one to deliver the money, inspect the pseudoephedrine and take it back to Naufahu, either to make methamphetamine or to simply on-sell it.

But Lance said his client had not done a criminal act in the actions seen on the video.

“There was no exchange of drugs, there was no transaction. There was no mythical $1 million,” Lance said.

Seven months later, Clausen’s home was searched. No drugs or money was found.

The lawyer said Clausen could not have been part of an agreement to on-sell the pseudoephedrine as there was no evidence of meetings or intercepted calls.

“His presence on the roadside is not a criminal act and a failed deal is a failed deal,” Lance said.

‘We’re working tomorrow sweetheart’

Earlier on Friday, Johnstone closed the case to the jury.

The woman, who faces one representative charge of laundering $292,496, was far more interested in taking “relatively easy money” than investigating where it was coming from, he said.

Numerous intercepted calls between a man, said to be the cash handler, and the woman have been played to the court as well as videos of the pair entering various banks across Auckland.

“We’re working tomorrow sweetheart,” the man says on one of the calls before asking her to bring her ID to the bank.

The woman replies: “You just tell me what to do”.

The money the Crown said was deposited into banks was then used for purchases of various luxury vehicles, including a Range Rover for jailed Comanchero vice-president Tyson Daniels.

“She directly or indirectly assisted in the banking,” Johnstone said.

Despite the woman not being told who she was banking money for, in more bugged calls, the man jokes about the money coming from the Comanchero.

“The point of this joke is that this could well be dirty money,” Johnstone said.

“She must have had her suspicions of where the money was coming from.”

However, her defence lawyer, Paul Heaslip, says it was a case of a “friendship gone wrong and betrayed trust”.

The man believed that banking the cash was fair and legal, and later apologised to the woman for involving her, Heaslip said.

The woman did not know it was “dirty money”, Heaslip said.

Naufahu is also charged with conspiring to supply the class B drug pseudoephedrine.

He also faces two charges of money laundering in relation to a Bentley and a Ford Ranger.

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

He pleaded guilty to participating in an organised criminal group, four charges of money laundering and being in possession of ammunition ahead of the trial.

The court has heard there were a number of trusts set up and various bank accounts were used to allegedly launder money to then purchase luxury cars and property.

Naufahu arrived in New Zealand and opened a bank account with zero dollars, the court heard.

Over a three-year period, from March 2016, a total of $1.1 million was deposited and about $1.095 million withdrawn, the court was told.

The Crown said cash deposits into Naufahu’s wife’s account from various trusts were used to pay for the Ford Ranger, despite her not declaring any income during that time.

“It’s important to think about how far Mr Naufahu’s prepared to go in this case,” Johnstone said.

“If this money came from crime then Mr Naufahu’s wife’s bank account has been used to do it.”

Charges against a media personality and an accountant accused of money laundering and being part of an organised criminal group were also dismissed on Thursday.

However, the accountant, Wiwini Himi Hakaria, admitted to being in possession of cocaine, which was found in a Nike shoe, and Justice Lang fined him $2000.

Naufahu’s lawyer Ron Mansfield will sum his case up to the jury on Monday.

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Source: Stuff