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Comancheros: Jury to decide fate of gang president in money laundering, drug trial

Published in 1%er News

It is now up to a jury of 12 to decide whether they think the president of the Comanchero motorcycle gang and another man conspired to deal drugs.

After more than four weeks, the trial against president Pasilika Naufahu, Connor Michael Tamati Clausen and a woman with name suppression wrapped up on Monday with Justice Graham Lang summing up the case to the jury.

There is no credible evidence to suggest Pasilika Naufahu conspired to import drugs, his lawyer says.

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.

A number of vehicles were seized by police in April 2019. (File photo)

Naufahu is charged with two charges of money laundering in relation to the purchase of a Bentley and Ford Ranger. He also is charged alongside Clausen with conspiring to supply pseudoephedrine.

The woman faces one representative charge of laundering $292,496, which the Crown say was used to purchase vehicles on behalf of gang memebrs.

Justice Lang said the trial involved allegations of drugs, gangs, large quantities of cash and luxury vehicles, but the jury should not draw any adverse inferences or prejudice about the defendants.

It was up to the Crown to prove the charges to the jury beyond reasonable doubt, he said.

Justice Lang told the jurors they were now the sole judges of the facts before releasing them to deliberate a verdict on each charge.

Connor Clausen and Pasilika Naufahu are jointly charged with conspiring to import a class B drug.

NO CREDIBLE EVIDENCE

Earlier on Monday, Naufahu’s lawyer Ron Mansfield said his client has been painted as a “demon”, but he is not a drug dealer despite the police’s best efforts to pin him as one.

Mansfield said police were “obsessed” with Naufahu despite the “woeful state” of the evidence.

“That is because the Crown knows, despite the best endeavours of the New Zealand Police force for over a year, there was no direct evidence of Pasilika Naufahu being involved in drug dealing activity here or abroad,” Mansfield said.

No drugs were found after the searches in April 2019, the court heard.

Naufahu and his family were subject to 24/7 surveillance with a camera positioned at the end of their driveway, but no drug-dealing activity had been captured, Mansfield said.

The court has previously 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 previously admitted funds that were used to purchase his home and some vehicles was laundered through lawyer Andrew Simpson and a convicted drug dealer.

The Crown’s case is that cash was deposited into Naufahu’s wife’s account which was then used to pay for the Ford Ranger, despite her not declaring any income during that time.

However, Mansfield said there was no evidence the vehicle was purchased with laundered money.

Over the course of the trial, the court has heard hours of intercepted calls between Naufahu and other associates, including a convicted drug dealer at the heart of the case.

He was observed, during the police’s covert investigation, meeting with Naufahu on multiple occasions.

Mansfield said that man was a “false prophet” who “peddled snake oil” during his evidence.

“No one could credibly leave this court thinking he was an honest man who was telling the truth.”

The jury had also heard about a failed drug deal. However, Mansfield said there was no evidence to link Naufahu to that deal.

Last week, Naufahu had one charge of conspiring to import a class A drug and one charge of money laundering withdrawn.

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 Graham Lang fined him $2000.

Location: New Zealand
Writer: Catrin Owen
Source: stuff.co.nz
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