King Cobra debt collectors jailed
Four King Cobra gang members and associates have been jailed for kidnapping and assaulting two Auckland men after a business arrangement turned sour.
Joe Tie, Robert Logo, Ross Romana and Ofisa Kopelani - who are all involved with the gang - were sentenced by Justice Patricia Courtney at the High Court at Auckland yesterday.
The group were found guilty on multiple charges, including kidnapping, blackmail and wounding with intent to injure after a three-week jury trial in June.
A fifth man, Sione Muli, was acquitted on all charges.
Justice Courtney said the kidnapping, blackmail and beating of the men on 18 December 2010 was a "debt collection exercise that went beyond the bounds of what is lawful".
During the trial, a jury heard the underworld saga began in October 2010 when an Asian man known as Han engaged the King Cobras to find a man, known as Johnson, who owed him $70,000.
He agreed to pay the gang $10,000 for their services.
They found the man but Johnson could not pay Han, so he in turn was unable to pay the King Cobras.
Han was taken to a house in Bond St, Kingsland, where Romana, Kopelani, Logo and Tie were.
Realising things had taken a bad turn, Han rang a Chinese friend, Jack Wu, and in Chinese, told him to seek out senior King Cobra Rocky Pulete to help him.
Wu located another gang member at Pulete's house who accompanied him to the Bond St address.
In the meantime, the amount owed was ratcheted up with Romana now demanding $10,000 each for him and Logo, $20,000 for Tie and another $10,000 for the use of his house - a factor the Crown said exemplified "the truly extorted nature of the offending".
When Wu arrived with the new gang member, Romana became enraged and assaulted Wu and Han.
The pair were punched and kicked and told they had to pay half of the money the next day. Logo, armed with a knife, also threatened to cut off Han's finger.
Wu's keys were taken and he was told if he reported the car missing, it would be burned and he would be "hunted down".
The pair managed to raise the alarm by pretending to call friends asking for money. A Chinese speaking police officer called their mobile phones and they were able to give their location and describe their predicament.
Police then arrested the men.
Romano, described as the "leader of the pack", was sentenced to six and a half years' jail, while Logo - his "right-hand man" - was jailed for five and a half years.
Romano also received a three-year concurrent sentence after police found 9.3g of methamphetamine hidden in the wall of his bedroom.
Tie, who did not take part in the violence but encouraged Logo to cut off Wu's finger, was jailed for three years and nine months. He also received a first strike warning.
Kopelani, whose role in the group was "at the lowest end of the spectrum" was jailed for three years and nine months.
Prosecutor Scott McColgin said the victims had suffered from more than just their physical injuries.
"They have suffered loss of enjoyment of life, paranoia for their safety in public places and still have nightmares," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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