Man on cannabis charges acquitted
An Otaki man who allegedly had an active part in an illegal synthetic cannabis operation has been acquitted on all charges.
Michael Robin Clulee, 44, was on trial in the Palmerston North District Court this week facing 11 charges relating to the import, export and manufacture of synthetic cannabis with banned substances.
Two charges were withdrawn partway through the trial due to insufficient evidence, while the jury of nine men and three women found him not guilty on all other charges yesterday.
When the verdicts were finished being read out, Clulee closed his eyes, clenched his fists and whispered "yes" to himself.
Crown prosecutor Daniel Flinn argued that Clulee was an equal partner in his brother's synthetic cannabis business.
From February to August 2012, packages of chemicals from China were posted to his Otaki house.
He also posted packages of synthetic cannabis product Swag to Australia, heading to the Otaki PostShop to do so.
Customs officers intercepted some of the chemical packages heading into the country addressed for Clulee's house.
Those packages contained synthetic cannabis chemicals which were controlled, after temporary class drug notices were made against them, making them illegal to import or export.
Police raided Clulee's property in August 2012 and found equipment used to create synthetic cannabis in his garage, along with packets of Swag. His brother, Hamish Clulee, pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the same activity. Flinn said Michael Clulee was paid by his brother to stay at home, receive and post packages, and make Swag.
But when he took the stand in his defence on Wednesday, Clulee said he thought everything was legal.
He said he did post and receive packages, but had no idea any of it was illegal.
His brother made all the Swag, and had assured him it was legal, he said.
Defence lawyer Michele Wilkinson-Smith told the jury during her closing argument that there was no evidence Clulee had ever made Swag.
Judge Gerard Lynch told the jury members they could be comfortable with their decisions.
"If I was deciding this trial as a judge alone, I would have come to the same conclusion.
"There may be suspicion, but it was not proved beyond reasonable doubt."
Customs had "got the big fish" with the successful prosecution of Clulee's brother, he said.
Michael Clulee also pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of cannabis seeds, which were found at his property during the Customs raid.
The judge convicted and fined him $350.