24 Aug 2018

Siblings jailed for supplying meth linked to 90 Mile Beach boat

3:25 pm on 24 August 2018

Two siblings have been jailed for supplying methamphetamine linked to a boat that washed up on 90 Mile Beach.

Riki and Chevonne Wellington.

Riki and Chevonne Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Anneke Smith

A jury found Riki and Chevonne Wellington guilty of possessing methamphetamine for supply and supplying the class A drug in a High Court at Auckland last month.

This morning Justice Matthew Palmer jailed Mr Wellington for 13 years and Ms Wellington for seven.

They transported around 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine each between Auckland and Christchurch in October, 2016.

The pair join several others who have already been jailed for their role in the supply chain, uncovered by a police investigation dubbed Operation Virunga.

The police seized more than 500 kilograms of methamphetamine from a boat that washed up on 90 Mile Beach in Northland in June, 2016.

The methamphetamine haul was estimated to be worth almost half a billion dollars.

Mr Wellington was convicted of four charges of possessing methamphetamine for supply and Ms Wellington was convicted of one charge of possessing methamphetamine for supply and three charges of supplying methamphetamine.

This morning, Justice Matthew Palmer began his sentencing by denouncing the class A drug.

"Methamphetamine destroys lives and communities. Those dealing in methamphetamine cause and profit from human misery. That is why in 2003 methamphetamine was reclassified as a class A drug in New Zealand. It appeals to vulnerable populations, has a high physical and psychological dependance potential and can lead to long term adverse physical and psychological effects.

"It is one of the most dangerous of drugs which is why the maximum sentence for supplying methamphetamine or possessing it for supply is life imprisonment."

The Wellingtons transported about 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine each, Mr Wellington just over 1.5kg and Ms Wellington just over 1.3kg, in a number of trips between Auckland and Christchurch in October 2016.

They used coded drug talk, frequently changed phone numbers and changed vehicles to avoid detection.

A woman connected to the boat that washed up on 90 Mile Beach led the police to the siblings, who were put under surveillance as part of Operation Virunga.

Today Ms Wellington's defence lawyer, Annabel Maxwell-Scott, said her client had used her time in custody to address her drug addiction, which drove her offending.

The 26-year-old had started a university degree before she was charged, and still had a bright future ahead of her.

"She is an intelligent young woman and she is, I suppose, an awful example of what happens when drugs become involved in someone's life and her family is very aware of that. She was doing well and I think still has the ability to do well. She is an intelligent young woman and a very determined young woman."

She said Ms Wellington had already spent two years in custody and said there was a plethora of evidence to show a lengthy sentence outcome would not deter others.

"One only has to look at the increase of methamphetamine on the streets and methamphetamine offending since the sentence was increased to a life sentence to see that it simply doesn't work. Deterrence is based on the concept that those offending know they'll be caught and what the sentences are likely to be and that is just simply not the case."

Mr Wellington's defence lawyer, Mark Ryan, said his client had potential to reform with the help of his prosocial family, who supported the pair from the public gallery during sentencing.

Justice Palmer imposed a minimum non-parole period of five years for Mr Wellington and no minimum period was imposed for Ms Wellington.