By Denise Piper, Stuff.co.nz
The activities of an international criminal group, which allegedly imported 501kg of methamphetamine worth up to $150 million, has been outlined in the trial of two defendants at the High Court in Whangārei, New Zealand.
Stevie Norua Cullen, 36, a managing director from central Auckland, and Selaima Fakaosilea, 30, from Auckland’s Beach Haven, are accused of importing methamphetamine into Northland in June 2016 and participating in an organised criminal group.
The trial got underway proper on Thursday, after several delays due to jurors being excused due to personal issues and sickness. Two more jurors were selected, bringing the jury to eight women and four men.
In the Crown’s opening statement, prosecutor Richard Annandale said Cullen and Fakaosilea played roles in the international criminal group.
Annandale said on June 12, 2016, a rigid inflatable boat was found abandoned on Ninety Mile Beach in the Far North.
Later that day, 449kg of methamphetamine was found in a campervan pulled over by police near Mangonui.
An additional 52kg of methamphetamine was found by police on 13 June, buried in sand dunes on Ninety Mile Beach.
If sold in 1kg lots, the 501kg of meth would be worth between $130 million and $150 million.
The Crown alleged Cullen, known by the codename Marvel, was in the Far North from late May to June 12, 2016 to carry out activities for the organised criminal group.
That included duties like researching marine conditions and places to launch a boat from, booking hotel rooms, being present at planning sessions, endeavouring to launch a boat from Shipwreck Bay at the base of Ninety Mile beach on June 9, 2016, and driving members of the group around, Mr Annandale said.
The Crown alleged Fakaosilea, known by the codename Blaze, played a logistics role from Auckland.
That included organising the hiring of vehicles, hiring a campervan, obtaining toolboxes and being a contact person for the arrival of an Asian man from overseas, Mr Annandale said.
Later, Fakaosilea oversaw the distribution of drugs for “buckets” of cash, he said.
Cullen’s defence counsel Annabel Maxwell-Scott said while he was in the Far North with a group at the time, his activities were sightseeing, going out on the town and drinking and travelling in cars.
He was also sick at the time and ended up in hospital.
Throughout that time he used his real name – Stevie or Steve – and “Marvel” was a nickname, she said.
Fakaosilea’s defence counsel Maria Pecotic said Fakaosilea had pleaded not guilty. She urged the jury to focus on Fakaosilea’s intent.
The trial continues Friday and is scheduled for five weeks.