Key players in meth ring get hefty sentences

FAIRFAX AND JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 12:00 20/12/2012

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Police drug bust Operation Stamp has drawn to a close with hefty sentences handed out to some of the key players in an inter-gang methamphetamine ring foiled by police surveillance.

In the High Court in Wellington yesterday the ringleader, Craig Wayne Matthews, 38, was sentenced to 11 years eight months' jail, while three others were also locked up for a long time.

"I think the results speak for themselves," police officer in charge of the court case, Detective Chris Payne, told the Manawatu Standard.

"The courts are sending a clear message that meth is a nasty, nasty sort of product.

"It's a really pleasing result."

After months of covert surveillance of the North Island ring, police swooped in February last year, making 31 arrests.

They also seized 36 vehicles, including BMWs, a Mercedes, a Hummer, Harley Davidson motorbikes, firearms, and $400,000 cash.

A methamphetamine lab was found in Murupara, Bay of Plenty, and in total 450 grams of the drug, with a street value of $450,000, was seized.

Most of that haul had been forfeited to the Crown, while the rest was still in the hands of the Official Assignee.

Detective Inspector Chris Bensemann said the operation showed that gangs were putting aside rivalries in the name of business.

And while the Rebels motorcycle gang continued to have a presence in New Zealand, around Manawatu it had been "quashed".

Matthews was originally to have been sentenced to 11 years' jail, but was on the run for three weeks until he was found in Hamilton.

A former Tribesmen member who switched to the Rebels, he has also forfeited more than $250,000 cash, 10 motor vehicles and five motorcycles including three Harley Davidsons.

Matthews, a father of three, pleaded guilty to three charges of supplying methamphetamine and two charges of manufacturing the drug.

Justice Ronald Young said the operation had a turnover of about $700,000 in less than 12 months, involving up to 1.6 kilograms of methamphetamine.

Palmerston North tattooist Herre van Niekerken, 39, a father of eight, was sentenced to nine years and six months' jail.

Van Niekerken accepted that property valued at about $30,000 should be forfeited, including a gold Pandora bracelet valued at $9237 that he bought for his partner. Van Niekerken also loses a Harley Davidson he bought as a wreck and rebuilt. He had pleaded guilty to conspiring to supply methamphetamine and supplying the drug.

Van Niekerken's gang involvement was originally with the Nomads, then the Tribesmen and finally the Rebels.

In a neighbouring Wellington courtroom, Jeremy "Jed" Shane Horne, 41, was jailed for 10 years and four months.

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He was found guilty last month of two charges of possession of methamphetamine, and one each of manufacture of methamphetamine, possessing materials used in manufacturing and possessing precursor substances.

Justice Joe Williams said Horne's involvement in the ring was smaller than Matthews'.

"This stuff is poison and you know it because I bet you know people whose lives are ruined by it," the judge said.

But he also acknowledged Horne was a "strong family man" who had done good things for the Murupara community.

Anthony Makete Te Moni, 42, was sentenced to six months' community detention plus 160 hours' community work.

A car that had been in his control was used as a clan lab.

- Manawatu Standard

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