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Slain Mob boss had $230k in car when police busted meth-dealing ring

Ric Stevens,
Publish Date
Wed, 3 Apr 2024, 8:22PM
Mourners at Daniel Eliu's funeral in December 2022.
Mourners at Daniel Eliu's funeral in December 2022.

Slain Mob boss had $230k in car when police busted meth-dealing ring

Ric Stevens,
Publish Date
Wed, 3 Apr 2024, 8:22PM

Mongrel Mob boss Daniel Eliu, who was later shot dead outside a South Auckland church, was carrying nearly $230,000 in his car when he was stopped by police investigating a meth-dealing ring.

On the same day Eliu was pulled over in 2020, police raided the Hastings home of another mobster, Ernie O’Neal Paul, and seized a further $26,755 in cash, along with two motorcycles.

Detectives had been eavesdropping on the pair’s phones as part of their 2020 Operation Casino investigation into an organised crime group selling meth across Hawke’s Bay.

Details of the deal brokered by Eliu and Paul, which involved the movement of 2kg of the drug from Auckland to Hastings, are outlined in a police application seeking the forfeiture of the mobsters’ assets to the Crown.

Police applied for the forfeiture of both seizures of cash, totalling $256,715, and Paul’s two high-end motorcycles under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009.

The Act is used to separate criminals from significant assets they have gained through their illegal activity.

The forfeiture application was approved by Justice Cheryl Gwyn in the High Court at Napier.

Justice Gwyn’s judgment said both Paul and Eliu, who was gunned down in December 2022, were involved in dealing meth.

During 2019 and 2020, the Hawke’s Bay police Criminal Investigation Branch carried out the extensive Operation Casino, targeting the sale and distribution of meth across the region.

Police obtained surveillance warrants which allowed them to monitor the phone communications of people in the ring.

These revealed Paul had arranged to buy 2kg of meth from a supplier in Auckland.

Eliu was employed to make the transaction and deliver the meth to Paul, who was at that time serving an eight-month home detention sentence for his part in an earlier gang-related assault in prison.

Mongrel Mob member Daniel Eliu was shot dead in Manukau in December 2022.
Mongrel Mob member Daniel Eliu was shot dead in Manukau in December 2022.

Eliu was the president of the Mob’s Notorious Chapter. Paul has distinctive Mongrel Mob “Rogue” tattoos on his face.

The phone communications between the two indicated the agreed purchase price for the meth was $230,000, plus a “delivery fee” of $20,000.

Eliu was then stopped travelling in a vehicle in Auckland containing $229,960 in cash. In the High Court judgment, this money was described as being “under the effective control of” Paul.

Eliu subsequently pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy to deal methamphetamine and four charges of supplying the drug. Paul admitted conspiracy to deal in methamphetamine.

The two motorcycles seized from Paul were included in the forfeiture application.

One was a Harley Davidson V Rod Muscle 2016, which police said was probably paid for with funds obtained from dealing meth. The other was an Indian Scout Bobber 2018, which had been paid for in cash.

Ernie O'Neal Paul had $26,755 seized from his home. Photo / NZ Police
Ernie O'Neal Paul had $26,755 seized from his home. Photo / NZ Police

Both were registered in other people’s names, but police said this was an attempt to conceal their true ownership. Both had been bought by or on behalf of Paul and were available for his use.

Operation Casino, led by Hawke’s Bay police, resulted in 22 people being charged with drug-dealing and firearms offences in 2020.

Among them were Eliu and another senior Mob member, Laki Sulusi, who has also since died. Sulusi died of natural causes in 2021, a few months after his arrest.

Sulusi’s $500,000 home in Napier and six classic cars were also restrained by police in a separate Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act application.

Money gained from the seizure of assets is put into the Proceeds of Crime Fund, to which agencies make applications to fund crime prevention programmes and drug and alcohol rehabilitation initiatives.

On the day of his death, Eliu had been attending a graduation for the Grace Foundation, a Christian-based intensive rehabilitation programme catering to people seeking to put their criminal pasts behind them.

Although Eliu wasn’t graduating himself that day, he had been in the programme for about six months.

Eliu had been the subject of media attention multiple times before his death due to his run-ins with the law.

His most high-profile crime, for which he was sentenced to 11 years in prison, involved a 2006 knife attack and revenge kidnapping of a man Eliu suspected had “narked” on a gang-affiliated friend of his — allegedly telling police about the friend’s possession of a loaded pistol.

Thomas Tahitahi has been charged with murder following Eliu’s death. He has pleaded not guilty and is due to be tried next month.

Ric Stevens spent many years working for the former New Zealand Press Association news agency, including as a political reporter at Parliament, before holding senior positions at various daily newspapers. He joined NZME’s Open Justice team in 2022 and is based in Hawke’s Bay. His writing in the crime and justice sphere is informed by four years of front-line experience as a probation officer.

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