1 Oct 2020

Comancheros trial: Money laundering charges dropped for two involved

5:43 pm on 1 October 2020

A media personality and an accountant accused of money laundering for the Comancheros gang were cleared of the charges today - with one copping a fine for drug possession instead.

Wiwini Himi Hakaria - Comanchero Motorcycle Club case

The accountant, Wiwini Hakaraia, has had three charges of money laundering and one of participating in an organised criminal group dismissed. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

They were among five people, including the gang's local chapter president Pasilika Naufahu, originally facing a raft of money laundering, drug possession and organised crime charges, after a series of police raids across Auckland last April.

In three and a half weeks at the High Court in Auckland, the jury has heard bugged phone calls allegedly including coded conversations about large sums of money, and heard details of an attempted roadside drug deal in Takanini.

The defence case was expected to start this week, but today jurors learnt that was no longer happening, while insufficient evidence had whittled eleven charges down to four, and five defendants down to three.

Justice Graham Lang told the jury none of the defendants had elected to call evidence, "as indeed is their absolute right."

"There's been a big shift, as you'll understand, in the scope of the evidence you're now going to be required consider," he said.

One of the defendants, a media personality with name suppression, has been cleared of two charges of money laundering and one of participating in an organised criminal group.

The other is accountant Wiwini Hakaraia - cleared of participating in an organised crime group and three counts of money laundering.

Instead, he admitted two charges of possessing a class A drug, and was sentenced this afternoon.

One charge relates to 27.6 grams of cocaine found in a bag in a Nike shoe during police search of his house in April last year, while the other charge is for a 18.2 gram bag of powder in a cupboard, containing cocaine and methamphetameme.

At his sentencing this afternoon, Justice Graham Lang fined the accountant $2000.

Lawyer Paul Wicks QC had asked for Hakaraia's guilty plea, good character and 'substantial community endeavours' to be taken into account, including his work with anti-smoking and youth mentoring groups.

He also assured his client had changed his ways.

"Since the search in April last year Mr Hakaraia has ceased any consumption of drugs. He now instructs me that he now longer possesses or uses drugs and that is something he has permanently put behind him in his life," he said.

The trial continues for Pasilika Naufahu, who is accused of money laundering and conspiring to supply the class B drug pseudoephedrine - after a charge of conspiring to import a Class A drug was dropped.

Connor Clausen is charged with conspiring to supply pseudoephedrine, and one other person with interim name suppression is charged with money laundering.

The Crown is expected to deliver its closing statement tomorrow.