The High Court has refused a police bid to seize the car and cash of a feared gang leader, saying he needed the car to get around because there was no public transport. Michael Daly reports.
Jack Makitania Whakatihi is president of one of New Zealand's most notorious gangs, the Nomads.
The police caught him and put him away for 2 years for his part in a methamphetamine drug ring. He admitted one count of possessing methamphetamine for supply in 2012.
Whakatihi had said the methamphetamine was payment for a Harley-Davidson motorbike, that it was provided on behalf of the gang and was distributed to members who consumed it.
When he was let out on parole this year, the police applied to court for the forfeiture of his car and cash - the proceeds, they said, of his crime.
But High Court Justice Joe Williams has refused: he said the legal costs would outweigh the value of Whakatihi's assets, a damaged $3640 Ford Falcon and $390 in cash.
He agreed Whakatihi had unlawfully benefited from the sale of methamphetamine - a profit of about $16,800.
But police had failed to establish the cash they found has come from drug sales, Justice Williams said. It was more likely than not to be club fees, which Whakatihi had said he collected as president of the Foxton branch of the Nomads gang.
As for the car, Justice Williams said Whakatihi relied on family support and forfeiture of the car would create undue hardship in a community where little public transport was available.
Last week, the car was parked out the back of Whakatihi's Foxton home - but, on Friday, Whakatihi was recalled to jail. The Parole Board said he posed an undue risk to the public. But his sentence ends in February and the prison will be forced to set him free again.
Whakatihi is a successor to Dennis "Mossie" Hines, who died behind bars in 2009 amid rumours that he had killed at least two people - but was never prosecuted for murder. The Nomads have a history of brutality and witness intimidation.
In October 1993 elderly Foxton doctor Howard Teppett was beaten to death with an iron bar in his own home, and his 78-year-old sister was brutally raped. One of the two men charged with the killing was a Nomads prospect, but the gang vehemently denied involvement.
Yesterday, Howard Teppett's son Robert told Fairfax: "The Nomads caused irreparable damage to lots and lots of people, not just my father, people who were vulnerable to their intimidation."
Hines was a notorious "taxer", Robert Teppett said. He took what he wanted from those who were on the wrong side of the tracks or poor. All the police had sought to do was "tax" Whakatihi as the Nomads had done to the community for 20 years.
Two decades ago the Nomads - a Black Power breakaway - were a fearsome street gang. Police launched a massive crackdown in 1994. Mark Lammas, who was the police Palmerston North District Commander at the time, said Nomads "to a large extent, had the community cowered down".
Since Hines' death and Whakatihi's jailing, locals said Foxton and the Horowhenua had become a safer place to live. "The town is completely different to what it was in the 90s," Robert Teppett said. "They've got some really good things going on."
In May, the community commemorated the life of Dr Teppett, who would have been 100 this year, with a ball to kickstart fundraising for a scholarship foundation to help Manawatu College students study medicine or nursing. Mayor Brendan Duffy said everyone knew there was a small group of family-related gang members but the gang had been quiet for a while.
OPOTIKI: Joe Collier, 22, died in July after a gang-related brawl which eyewitnesses said involved young men loosely affiliated with Black Power and the Mongrel Mob. Tamaikoha Takao, 34,denied a charge of murder and has been remanded in custody.
In 2009 a 22-year-old Japanese tourist was brutally raped in her bedroom in the town while her host family watched television. Two teenage gang prospects were convicted for the attack, with the judge saying one expected to get his Mongrel Mob patch as a result of the offending.
WHAKATANE: The town is considered to be the territory of Black Power, which is associated with the colour blue. In 2010 a man abused a four-year-old boy wearing a red shirt - the colour of the Mongrel Mob - who was playing in a park. When the boy's father wasn't looking the man poked the boy and pulled the shirt of him.
WAIROA: A leadership quarrel in 2010 turned into a gunfight at the Mongrel Mob gang pad. The trouble started when some gang members beat long term president Rangi Tamati and took his patch. The shootout followed the arrival of reinforcements from Napier. Some members were wounded. Kelly Gemmell received severe shotgun wounds to the face but his death later in hospital was found to be due to an unrelated aneurism.
TANEATUA: Two hunters emerging from the Urewera National Park in 2009 were confronted by seven knife-carrying men wearing leather vests bearing the words "Taneatua Mongrel Mob". The gang members asked about the hunters' guns and dogs in a "threatening" manner. The gang members drove off, then returned a few minutes later but could not find the hunters who had hidden among bushes.
WHANGANUI: A 2007 drive-by shooting, following confrontations between members of the Mongrel Mob and Black Power, killed the two-year-old daughter of Black Power member Josh Te Tua. Jhia Te Tua died instantly when hit by a bullet as she slept on a couch. About 15 Black Power members were at the house when shots were fired into the property as three vehicles glided up outside in the dark without any lights on. Three men were found guilty of murder.
- Sunday Star Times