Secret police search in 1080 blackmail case leaves Golden Bay couple in shock
A Golden Bay couple already reeling after a police raid last March were shocked to learn of an earlier secret search of their home.
Rolf and Ute Kleine, who run teahouse and bakery, Takaka Infusion, received an email last week from Detective Senior Sergeant Aaron Pascoe that attached a signed copy of a search warrant and a "postponement notice". That notice had enabled police to keep the search secret for 12 months.
"We had no clue," Rolf Kleine said. "I had to read it three times.
"I thought 'that can't be'."
A property record sheet attached to the email showed police took hair samples from brushes, four pieces of used dental floss, a sheet of A4 paper with a print test and two plain sheets of A4 paper.
Wet and dry swabs were taken from two toothbrush heads and handles. Police also copied electronic storage items including computers, an iPad, external disk drive and a USB stick.
The search on January 28, 2015 related to a police investigation into a threat to contaminate infant and other formula with 1080.
Rolf and Ute Kleine have been publicly opposed to 1080. However, Rolf Kleine stressed the pair were pacifists.
"We never have been in any way aggressive," he said. "I've never even thrown a stone in a demonstration."
Nor had there been any previous dealings with police in their native Germany or in New Zealand, where they have lived for eight years. "I don't even have a speeding ticket in New Zealand."
The secret search by police in January 2015 was followed by another search on March 25 of the Kleines' home as well as their business and car.
The couple were home when police descended in March and the pair were taken to separate police stations for questioning – Rolf to Motueka and Ute to Takaka.
Police say the searches were legal and allowed under the Search and Surveillance Act.
Police could use the act to search properies and individuals during the course of any investigation if a search warrant was obtained.
In some cases, such as when a search would prejudice an investigation or put the safety of someone in danger, the legislation allowed for covert searches.
In the email sent last week, Pascoe says he "would like to acknowledge the assistance and co-operation you both provided to police on 25 March 2015.
"This assisted police in reaching the conclusion that neither of you were in any way involved in the crime of blackmail."
He also says police were obliged to provide the documentation attached – the search warrant, postponement notice and property record sheet – by January 22, 2016.
Rolf Kleine queried why the police searched the house in March if they had already copied the information on the couple's computers and collected samples, presumably for DNA testing, during the secret search in January.
"How do they explain that?"
It was "such a strange feeling" to know the police had opened the door to their home and searched it, taking some items without their knowledge, he said.
The couple's lawyer, Steven Zindel, said he had never heard of a secret search by police followed by another search executed at a later date. "Not in New Zealand."
He described his clients as very principled people who had co-operated with police.
Rolf Kleine said the couple also suspected that an undercover police officer had come into their shop several times during December 2014, and January and March 2015, in an attempt to "entrap" the pair.
"He said he was an anti-1080 activist and wanted to get involved," Rolf Kleine said. "It's a busy time of year for us, I said we were not active. He came back every day for two weeks."
After the threat was revealed, the man returned "and said 'wasn't it good what had happened' and wanted me to agree".
On the contrary, the couple were appalled. "It was horrible what happened. We were shocked," Rolf Kleine said.
Concerns the man might have been an undercover officer along with the search in March and now news of an earlier search in secret had left the Kleines feeling intimidated.
"It has been intimidating for quite a while," Rolf Kleine said. "It's always been on our mind – we want to finish it."
In his email, Pascoe says police have been attempting to meet with the Kleines and he is waiting to hear about a suitable date and venue.
However, Rolf Kleine said the couple did not think it made sense to make contact with the police any more. There had been delays awaiting responses to previous correspondence, and requests to see copies of the signed warrants and a copy of the search warrant affidavit relating to the raid in March had been declined.
"We're a little bit over it now, we don't really feel like we should continue with this [discussions with police]."
The couple were preparing a statement of claim with their lawyer with a view to legal action, buoyed by support from many people in Golden Bay.
"The investigation has been so poor," Rolf Kleine said. "They [the police] could have done it in a different way."
The officer in charge of Operation Concord Detective Superintendent Andy Lovelock said police had said from the beginning they would not discuss why specific individuals were of interest to police. "
"It is quite normal for persons of interest to be eliminated from an enquiry as an investigation progresses, as occurred in this instance."
Once the necessary information had been obtained police were satisfied that this couple had no connection with the blackmail threat being investigated.
The Operation Concord investigation saw a 60-year-old Auckland man arrested and charged with blackmail in October last year. He pleaded guilty last month.
Police have unsuccessfully tried to meet with Mr and Mrs Kleine since that time to explain their inclusion in the investigation and the actions taken by Police.
"If Mr and Mrs Kleine have ongoing concerns about Police actions we welcome the opportunity to meet with them to discuss those concerns. "
- November 2014: Fonterra and Federated Farmers receive letters threatening to contaminate infant formula with 1080 unless New Zealand stop using the poison by April 2015.
- January 2015: Police search Rolf and Ute Kleine's Golden Bay home without their knowledge. Items are removed for DNA testing.
- March 2015: Police publicly announce threat, which has huge impact on global and domestic milk powder sales.
- March 2015: Police search Rolf and Ute Kleine's house a second time. The Kleines are present at this search.
- October 2015: Arrest made in case.
- December 2015: Blackmailer, who has name supression, pleads guilty.
- January 2016: Rolf and Ute Kleine find out about the first covert search of their property.