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Comanchero Motorcycle Club president came to New Zealand in 2016 and went about setting up the gang for monetary gain

Stuff-Catrin Owen

The president of the Comanchero Motorcycle Club president Pasilika Naufahu came to New Zealand in 2016 and went about setting up the gang for monetary gain while those around him enjoyed the benefits, the Crown say.

The trial against Naufahu, Connor Michael Tamati Clausen, accountant Wiwini Himi Hakaraia, a media personality who has name suppression, and a woman, also with name suppression, began on Monday at the High Court at Auckland.

The five were arrested following a series of raids across Auckland in April 2019 which saw more than $3.7 million in assets seized along with luxury cars, motorcycles, luxury luggage and jewellery.

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The police investigation was into the supply of controlled drugs from the New Zealand chapter of the Comanchero Motorcycle Club.

On Monday afternoon, Crown prosecutor David Johnstone opened the case to the jury.

He told them Naufahu arrived in New Zealand from Australia in early 2016 and quickly went about establishing the New Zealand chapter of the Comancheros.

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Naufahu was declared bankrupt in 2010 in Australia, however on arrival in New Zealand he opened a bank account and up until 2019, $1.1 million was deposited.

Only $36,000 was able to be explained.

The president and his brother, Vetekina, also received regular monthly payments from a business in Australia, the court heard.

”Pasilika Naufahu and fellow Comancheros, wives, partners and families commenced a lifestyle both living and working together and benefited … from a series of offences,” Johnstone said.

The gang was joined by others whose skills and attributes helped the flow of financial rewards, the court heard.

“All of these defendants contributed to his organised criminal group and helped it succeed until the police intervened in April 2019.”

The success of the group saw brand new luxury vehicles purchased along with a waterfront apartment, trips on luxury yachts and a $1.3 million Bucklands Beach house.

The house was purchased with Naufahu’s 7-year-old son listed as the owner.

“But another thing the success of the group bought with it was a problem, the problem was how to hide the crimes that were generating all the money,” Johnstone said.

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The true source of the money was a secret and the group had to use a range of tactics to pretend the source was legitimate, the Crown said.

A lawyer was used to set up trusts for Naufahu and other group members.

“When you work carefully through the glimpse of reality behind the secrets and pretending, the picture is perfectly clear,” Johnstone said.

A concreting business was used as a disguise to pay salaries to the group and the media personality was listed as the director, the court heard.

“The reality was that [the media personality] was running [the concreting business] for the joint benefit for himself and the organised criminal group,” Johnstone said.

Hakaraia offered cover as a professional service provider and businessman by reviewing the accounts of the concrete business, Johnstone said.

Payments were also made by Hakaraia to Comanchero vice president Tyson Daniels to buy another new Range Rover.

“There can’t be any sensible reason that these payments were loans,” Johnstone said.

THE CHARGES

Naufahu has denied conspiring to import a class A drug, conspiring to supply class B drug pseudoephedrine and three charges of money laundering, namely using $212,796.96 towards purchasing a Bentley, Ford Ranger and a concrete pump.

Clausen is charged with conspiring to supply class B drug pseudoephedrine

The media personality is charged with participating in an organised criminal group and two charges of money laundering including the purchase of two concrete pumps totalling $439,700.

Hakaraia has denied participating in an organised criminal group; two charges of possession of class A drug for supply, namely cocaine and methamphetamine; and three charges of money laundering including $439,700 used towards two concrete pumps and $110,000 used towards purchasing a Range Rover.

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The woman has also denied engaging in a money laundering transaction, namely depositing $292,496.40 cash into various bank accounts.

Earlier this month Naufahu admitted participating in an organised criminal group, four charges of money laundering and being in possession of ammunition.

Clausen also admitted being in possession of a pistol and ammunition and a pump-action shotgun and shells.

In August, club treasurer Jarome Fonua and Vetekina admitted their parts in the operation. They will be sentenced on October 23.

Earlier this year, lawyer Andrew Simpson and Daniels were jailed for their involvement.

The jury trial at the High Court is the first one to be held under the current enhanced Covid-19 alert level 2.5 in Auckland.

Defendants, jurors, counsel and media are all required to physically distance and wear masks in the courtroom. Jurors are also sitting in front of plastic screens.

The trial is set down for four weeks in front of Justice Graham Lang and a jury.

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