Drug kingpin loses millions to court

ROB KIDD
Last updated 13:59 08/03/2013

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A drug "mastermind" has been jailed for 12 years and forfeited the greatest value of assets a New Zealand court has seen.

Former Waikato car trader Stephen John Gray, 57, was found guilty at trial last year of several charges, which included manufacturing large quantities of methamphetamine, as well as supplying ecstasy. He had previously pleaded guilty to selling LSD and cannabis too.

Though the volumes of drugs supplied over a five-month period in 2009 were disputed by Gray's lawyer Philip Morgan QC, Justice John Priestley said the quantities were still huge.

Crown prosecutor Jacinda Foster said the police investigation, which involved intercepted phone calls and text messages, revealed Gray sold at least 60 ounces of methamphetamine - with a street value of nearly $1 million - 1196 tabs of LSD, 6.9 pounds of cannabis and 800 ecstasy pills.

Upon sentencing, His Honour said: "You've wrecked your life as you know".

"It is clear from the intercepted conversations you knew precisely what you were doing, you were good at it and you enjoyed it."

His Honour said Gray had brought shame on himself and to some extent on his family, though that was tempered by the fact he had involved his son Michael Stephen Gray in the offending.

Morgan stressed his client had been a loving family man and a reliable provider with a clean criminal record for many years, but a "dark side" had emerged.

The bulk of Gray's offending was centred around a farm in Te Uku where his "cook" Simon Lindsay Kayrouz - who is yet to be sentenced - manufactured the methamphetamine and stored the pre-cursor materials.

Drugs would then be transported to a rural property west of Hamilton on Exelby Rd where Gray would sell them.

The court heard how he regularly supplied a gang member from Wellington with up to $150,000 of methamphetamine at a time and though the window of surveillance was quite small, His Honour said it was fair to infer there had been prior offending.

Large quantities of Hypophosphorous acid, capable of producing more than 12kg of P, were also found at the farm with drugs and $154,000 cash in a shopping bag when police raided.

In a forfeiture agreement ratified by the judge today, Gray will give up two vehicles (worth $45,000 each), the Exelby Rd house (worth $900,000) and the farm (worth $3 million), as well as having to come up with another $1.1 million.

The Crown confirmed today the settlement, worth more than $5 million was the largest the country had ever seen.

Gray and the family trust will retain a bach in Whangamata, two rental properties in Hamilton, other vehicles, farm stock and cash assets worth about $2.5 million in total.

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Originally His Honour sentenced the drug kingpin to 17 years but deducted five years for the forfeiture of the property.

However, he imposed a minimum period of imprisonment of five and a half years.

Outside court Gray's daughter Michelle Riley said her father was truly remorseful and described him as "the best dad in the world".

The huge forfeiture order comes on the back of another for $1.2 million made against Auckland man Feng Chih Hsu in the High Court in Auckland after he was found guilty last year of large scale methamphetamine and firearms offending.

Detective Superintendent Peter Devoy, National Manager Financial Crime Group said Asset Recovery Units around the country were working hard and having significant success.

"Combining the two results means we have taken $6.3 million back from drug offenders over the past two days," he said.

Since the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act came into effect in 2009, police have obtained forfeiture orders for 322 assets worth an estimated $26 million.

- Stuff

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