Killer Beez gang boss jailed

Last updated 11:25 03/08/2012

JAILED: Josh Masters, center, at an earlier court appearance.

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Killer Beez gang boss Josh Masters has been jailed for more than 10 years on drugs charges.

Masters appeared in the High Court at Auckland today for sentencing on two charges of supplying methamphetamine, one of conspiring to supply the Class A drug and one of money laundering and was jailed for 10 years and five months.

The  33-year-old was arrested along with 42 other members and associates of the Killer Beez and Tribesmen gangs in 2008 after a police crackdown on drug dealing in South Auckland.

He has been in custody since his arrest and has already served almost half of his sentence.

Masters, originally faced 17 charges, but 13 were dropped after he plead guilty on the first day of his High Court trial in September 2010.

Until then he had denied any wrongdoing, even appearing on Campbell Live telling the nation he didn't touch drugs.

''I give you my word, no drugs. I am not known for taking drugs, my family know that, my friends know that and now New Zealand knows that," he said at the time.

Although admitting his guilt at trial, Masters wanted a disputed facts hearing to argue about the amount of drugs police claim he had dealt, before being sentenced.

Then before sentencing in September 2011, Masters indicated he wanted to vacate his guilty plea.

At the time, Crown prosecutor Bruce Northwood told the High Court that since Masters' initial arrest he'd had three different lawyers and a court-appointed lawyer to support him as he defended himself, all of whom he had parted ways with.

''The Crown's view is he is toying with the system... The excuses offered are spurious.''

The court gave Masters until September 28 to make an application to withdraw his plea or secure a lawyer but he turned up, from the cells, alone and carrying only a box of papers.

A sentencing date was then set down for November last year, but Masters again got it adjourned.

Following several more adjournments this year a disputed facts hearing went ahead. The court recently rejected Masters arguments.

The detective who headed the operation that busted Masters, Detective Senior Sergeant Alby Alexander, expressed some relief at the sentence today.

Further proceedings will soon be scheduled for the Crown and Masters to argue over items seized from him under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

"It's a fair reflection of his involvement in a criminal group and this has bought some finality around that operation," he said.

In Alexander's 27 years on the force he said he'd never been involved with a case that had taken so long between a guilty plea being entered and a sentence being imposed.

"Nothing I've been involved in has procrastinated this long but I couldn't say categorically (that any other case has taken this long)," he said.

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