Kiwi sports star who police linked to drug syndicate to be named, Supreme Court decides

A Kiwi sports star accused by prosecutors of being involved in a global drug conspiracy will soon be named.

After several failed legal appeals, the Supreme Court today decided the sportsman’s interim suppression will lapse at 2pm tomorrow.

He was identified during the drug-trafficking trial of Tevita Fangupo, Tevita Kulu and Toni Finau in Auckland during 2019.

Despite not being charged, the sports star was accused by the Crown of being “intimately” linked to the offending, which included methamphetamine importations from California.

He has strenuously denied the allegations and fought to keep his name suppressed.

“In the present case, there is no dispute that publication would cause undue hardship to the applicant, so the discretion to make a suppression order was enlivened,” the Supreme Court said in its judgment delivered this afternoon.

“However, in all of the four decisions considering the application, the Courts have determined that the discretion should not be exercised in favour of suppression, having regard to open justice principles.”

New Zealand’s top court, however, allowed suppression to continue for another 24 hours to “provide the applicant with the opportunity to communicate the result as he needs to”.

“After that time, there will be no impediment to the reporting of the applicant’s name,” the court ruled.

Since the trial, the Crown has abandoned one of its earlier allegations against the sportsman, which relied on a series of phone messages and a contact called “Sese”.

It was claimed by prosecutors the messages showed the sports star changing currency for the syndicate. The allegation was withdrawn after immigration records were provided.

“He has never transported or changed cash for these people, he has never had any dealings with importing methamphetamine. He has said that on oath,” the man’s lawyer Michael Heron, QC, has said.

In a sworn affidavit, the sportsman said: “I have never been involved in the importation of class A drugs. I have never changed or transported money for the defendants. I have never been involved in the purchase, supply or consumption of methamphetamine.”

After the trial, Detective Inspector Scott Beard also said the sports star did not receive “special treatment” but added “there was insufficient evidence to charge” him.

Police obtained a warrant to search his home but did not execute it.

The sportsman declined when asked by police to be interviewed.

His bid for suppression has been opposed by a group of media companies, including the Herald, Stuff, which was represented by lawyer Robert Stewart, Newshub and RNZ.

The members of the syndicate – Fangupo, Kulu, Finau and Halane Ikiua – were all sentenced to terms of imprisonment in November 2019 for the importation and supply of methamphetamine and cocaine, and conspiracy to supply drugs.

A fifth man, Shane Singh, was jailed for importing a Class A drug.

Source: Read Full Article