18 Dec 2018

Record meth bust: Jailed bag woman 'ignored the human misery'

4:48 pm on 18 December 2018

An Auckland woman who carried $3.5 million in cash in suitcases in the country's biggest known methamphetamine operation has been jailed for 14 and a half years.

Northland Police have made a record seizure of methamphetamine - with an estimated street value of $438 million.

Baggies of meth laid out. Photo: Supplied / New Zealand Police

The 29-year-old, who cannot be named, was in charge of counting and delivering the money and co-ordinating drug drop offs throughout the city in 2016.

She appeared for sentencing in the High Court at Auckland this morning after pleading guilty to two charges of supplying methamphetamine and one of supplying cocaine earlier this year.

Using coded messages, the woman arranged for her co-offenders to drop off and pick up methamphetamine.

In one drop off, almost 15kg of meth was handed over in Manurewa's Totara Park in a sports bag and in another 9kg was left in a car parked on the side of Dominion Rd.

The meth was traced back to a boat that washed up on 90 Mile Beach in Northland in June, 2016, with more than 500kg of the class A drug found on board - the biggest meth seizure in New Zealand.

Crown prosecutor Nick Webby said while the woman, who has name suppression, wasn't the operation's kingpin, she played an important role.

"She was entrusted to count and deliver millions of dollars worth of cash; money which had clearly come from drug-related offending."

He submitted a starting point of 18 years' imprisonment but the woman's defence lawyer Maria Pecotic said it should be 13 years' imprisonment.

Ms Pecotic said her client was vulnerable and suffered from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Because of this personal background and things that have happened to her, this has led to her to follow instructions and offend without questioning the actions that she was asked to complete."

Justice Palmer began his sentencing by saying those who dealt meth caused and profited from human misery.

He said while the woman wasn't leading the operation, she was a trusted communication link and "more than a minor cog in the operation".

"It is clear you treated the supply of methamphetamine as a business.

"You took preventative measures against getting caught; changing phones regularly, using coded languages and a variety of vehicles to transfer drugs.

"You appear to have ignored the human misery you caused."

The Judge said her elaborate offending meant she posed a moderate-to-high risk to others, but said she had potential to do better with her life.

"You are relatively young. You have never been convicted or received a prison sentence before.

"You have two children. You are clearly intelligent, competent and capable of better things and a better life. I think you're a strong woman."

He urged her to take up counselling and any rehabilitative programmes available to her in prison, before jailing her for 14-and-a-half years.

No minimum period was imposed, so she will be eligible for release in around five years.