16 Sep 2020

Comancheros trial: Witness tells court he was reluctant to join drugs posse

5:49 pm on 16 September 2020

The man the Crown describes as "the heart of the case" against the president of the Comanchero gang has told a jury of his dealings with multiple people associated with the trial.

Comanchero Motorcycle Club president Pasilika Naufahu and a number of his associates and alleged associates have pleaded not guilty to drugs and money laundering charges.

Comanchero Motorcycle Club president Pasilika Naufahu. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

The trial of the local chapter president Pasilika Naufahu, Connor Michael Tamati Clausen, accountant Wiwini Himi Hakaraia, and two others with name suppression - including a media personality - is in its second week in the High Court at Auckland.

The man, who is not a defendant and is unable to be named, has been giving evidence today. The Crown said he was central to the case.

He has been convicted of other charges and is giving evidence from custody via video link.

Today the 51-year-old man talked about dealings between himself, Naufahu, the Comancheros vice-president Tyson Daniels, the gang's lawyer Andrew Simpson and another two men who can't be identified.

Daniels and Simpson have both been jailed for money laundering.

The man told the court he discussed importing drugs to New Zealand with Naufahu and communicated with him via a private, secure phone called a Cipher.

Naufahu faces three charges of money laundering, one of conspiring to import a Class A drug, and one of conspiring to supply a Class B drug, pseudoephedrine.

The man also said he was paid almost $20,000 to make cash deposits at various banks around Auckland into accounts held by and on the instruction of Andrew Simpson over a few months.

He also confirmed many of the code names used in intercepted phone calls - "apples", "kumara", "taro" and "cassava" - referred to money and drugs, as well as decoding the nicknames used for people over the phone.

The man, who said he had been a pastor, told the court his involvement with drugs was reluctant.

He said his brother asked him to fly a suitcase full of drugs from Fiji to New Zealand or Australia. Not wanting to, he slashed the suitcase and discreetly put it in a river. Once that was discovered by others, the man said he was threatened and feared for the safety of his wife and daughter.

"My family's life was on the line," he said. "I had to do whatever he said."

The man said he then became a New Zealand link for his brother and acted on his instructions, including meeting up with Pasilika Naufahu and Tyson Daniels in early 2018, who he said wanted to do business with them.

He admitted depositing multiple sums of $9000 in various bank accounts over a period of months.

In one intercepted communication, the man referred to Naufahu, the president of the local Comancheros chapter, as his "boss".

The man also said Naufahu spoke about offering him a job with a company connected to one of the defendants with name suppression, which the Crown said paid the Comancheros "pretend" salaries.

In his cross examination of the witness, Naufahu's lawyer Ron Mansfield said to him that his supposed reluctance to be involved with drugs was a "self-serving lie" which was a "story".

"You were involved in the sale of it here," Mansfield said, which the man denied.

Mansfield questioned why, if the man was not interested in the drug trade, he did not initially confess but rather denied the offending when given the opportunity.

Mansfield brought up comments from the man's brother in intercepted conversations that he was a "good actor".

"You're in prison because you're a liar," Mansfield said. "You're prepared to say whatever is required of you if it benefits you."

The trial continues.

*An earlier version of the story had erroneously stated 'defendant' in the headline and has been corrected to say witness.

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