A man described by a judge as the mastermind behind a drug importing business has been jailed for 11 years, with a minimum non-parole period of five years and three months.
Gary Read, 45, was sentenced in the High Court in Hamilton on Friday on 74 charges. Over a two-year period he imported an estimated 14.5kg of pseudoephedrine - enough to be worth up to $8 million when turned into methamphetamine, also known as the drug "P".
The court was told that Read made numerous trips to Thailand where he bought thousands of pseudoephedrine pills, crushed them into a paste and hid them inside cosmetic jars which he posted in parcels to "catchers" - family and friends in New Zealand. Some knew what was going on, others were completely in the dark.
The Crown estimated that a total of 15kg to 19kg of pseudoephedrine was imported, but the defence claimed it was between 10kg and 14kg. Justice Toogood decided on the middle ground of 14.5kg.
The judge said it was one of the most significant drug importation enterprises to come before the courts and Read's offending, which also involved cunningly manipulating other people to help him, demanded more than the maximum penalty.
"The fact that this was a sophisticated operation conducted over several years and involving at least 70 importations makes it, in my view, more serious," he said.
Read's daughter, Kahsharn Read, 26, was sentenced for receiving packages containing the drugs and now faces nine months' home detention. Jade Brady, 30, who helped sell the drugs, was jailed for just over two years.
Paul Mabey, QC, who represented Gary Read, acknowledged that his client was the kingpin in the operation and said he was remorseful.
Police seek to seize Thai property
The officer who led the investigation says police have seized two properties Gary Read owns in Tauranga and authorities in Thailand hope to take similar action.
Detective Inspector Grant Wormald told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Friday that Read owns a property in Thailand valued at about $1.4 million.
"The cynic in me says that he's ferreted his money away overseas in the hope that if he was ever caught he wouldn't lose that. A police liaison officer in Thailand is assisting the Thais with forfeit action that they may be taking."
Mr Wormald said an arrest warrant has been issued for Read in Thailand which is valid until about 2037.