16 Jun 2020

British man jailed for possessing meth for supply

11:16 am on 16 June 2020

A British national has been jailed for more than nine years for his role in an international drug syndicate that imported nearly 200kg of methamphetamine into New Zealand.

One of the containers of methamphetamine seized by police today 9/8/19.

One of the containers of methamphetamine seized by police. Photo: NZ Police / Supplied

James Edward Woodley was one of two Brits arrested after police found 193kg of methamphetamine valued at $27 million in the wardrobe of an apartment complex in central Auckland last year.

The drug bust was part of a police investigation dubbed 'Operation Essex' that targeted members of an overseas criminal organisation working in New Zealand.

Woodley was surveilled by the New Zealand Police after authorities in Australia arrested his associate in a 700kg MDMA bust in Brisbane.

He was arrested at the Auckland International Airport as he tried to flee the country; having told customs he was here for a month-long vacation in the South Island on arrival.

Justice Davison jailed him in the High Court at Auckland today after he admitted one charge of possessing methamphetamine for supply earlier this year.

Crown prosecutor Kirsten Lummis sought a starting point of 24 to 25 years' imprisonment for Woodley to reflect his financial and logistical support role in the operation.

The court heard he carried "wads of cash" and appeared to have been sent to New Zealand to carry out a support role in the international drug syndicate.

Defence lawyer Ron Mansfield told the court his client, in his 50s with a long term partner and children he had looked after as his own, was "the most unlikely person" to have been caught up in serious drug offending.

"He's lived a rather ordinary life ... he's not someone who has moved in the underground or been involved in criminal offending and has worked their way up to this kind of role."

He said Woodley had abused alcohol and then drugs after a family tragedy that saw him amass a drug debt and later be recruited by a sophisticated drug syndicate in the United Kingdom.

Mansfield said his client had no knowledge of the scale of the enterprise he was involved in, adding he hadd received $A15,000 (approx $NZ16,049) for his role.

Justice Davison said Woodley's "heartless exploitation of vulnerable people" spoke volumes of his criminality in the case.

"To you, it appears it simply represented a product to be sold and converted into money.

"You involved yourself in order to obtain money and you clearly had no concern whatsoever for the many people whose lives and family would be seriously harmed, and in some cases destroyed, by the corrosive effects of the drugs were you in possession for distribution of."

The judge said anyone responsible for such exploitative offending motivated by financial gain could expect nothing less than a stern response from the law.

He jailed him for nine years and seven months' imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of four years and nine months.

Woodley's alleged co-offender is still before the court.