Two more figures involved in the importation of the largest haul of methamphetamine [P] into New Zealand have been sentenced to more than 20 years' jail.
Ulakai Fakaosilea and Jeremiah Iusitini had slightly different but crucial roles in bringing more than 500kgs of P into the country on June 12 and 13, last year.
Appearing in the Whangārei High Court yesterday, Fakaosilea and Iusitini were sentenced to 22 years and nine months and 25 years and seven months' jail respectively.
Justice Simon Moore said given Iusitini's more senior role he would also serve a minimum non-parole period of 10 years, the same as co-offender Malachi Tuilotolava, who was jailed for 24 years in October for his part in the scheme.
The men are three of eight involved in bringing the drugs in from 12km offshore after launching a boat off Ahipara on June 11, returning about 1am with 501kg of meth in 20kg bags.
The 501kgs of drugs, with an estimated street value of up to $150 million, was found by police over the next two days.
Fakaosilea entered New Zealand on June 2, 2016, after being deported from Australia.
Three days later, he picked up his co-offenders Ka Yip Wan, 26, and another man from a property in South Auckland, and drove them to Kaitaia.
On June 7, Fakaosilea's uncle hired a silver Toyota Rav4 for him and another person, which they used to transport two satellite cellphones to other co-defendants who were already in Kaitaia.
Arriving in Kaitaia, Fakaosilea met with four of his co-offenders the following night at a motel.
He then re-emerged on June 12 to help unload the boat and hide the drugs after it beached sometime between 1am and 2am.
The following day, police discovered about 50kg of methamphetamine concealed in sand dunes near where the boat had beached.
Justice Moore said Fakaosilea was a "trusted member of the group" as he was allowed to receive the drugs on shore, transfer most into the campervan and hide the rest.
"Those are not the actions of a mule," he said in response to his lawyer's submission that he was.
He and his co-offender were arrested that day.
However, Iusitini was deemed as having a more senior role as he liaised with others and gave out orders during the operation.
He and two associates, which included Tuilotolava, flew from Auckland to Bangkok, Thailand, in February, returning on May 6.
While he wasn't physically present during the drug's arrival, he communicated via text message with the others to purchase items including to buy metal tool boxes with a 50kg or 50-litre capacity and hire a campervan.
He then got texts from a co-offender once the drugs had been unloaded, stating "We algood uso! Everything is sweeeet!"
Another text showed concern began to creep in when he received this message, "yeah I
still haven't heard from the boys, they went to pick up the boat and haven't been back nor have they been relying to my texts, you know if mack has heard from them yet?"
"F*** me okay uce all good, how long have they been gone? And they didn't have anything else on them yeh like the car was clear and the boat was clear?"
Justice Moore said the texts revealed how others in the group were reporting back to him as things were going.
"That can only be because they regarded you as an important and influential cog in this enterprise. You were involved in the plans for at least the month leading up to the events of 11 and 12 June 2016. You clearly had detailed knowledge of the plan, and I accept you acted, at least at times, as a coordinator.
"While I am not satisfied these messages prove you were the overall leader or director, or even more senior than all your other co-offenders as the Crown submits, I am satisfied you were an important and influential member of this operation."
However, Justice Moore said an aggravating factor was his attempt to flee back to Thailand on June 14. Although he got on the plane, he was stopped from entering Bangkok and returned to New Zealand three days later.