Drug charges withdrawn for man at centre of NZ's biggest cocaine bust
A man who was at the centre of New Zealand's biggest cocaine bust has had charges against him withdrawn.
Gonzalo Rivera Pavon, a 30-year-old bartender from Mexico based in Christchurch, had tears in his eyes when he left the High Court in Auckland on Thursday morning.
Justice Simon Moore withdrew charges of importing and possession of cocaine after authorities found 35kg of the class A drug inside a diamante-encrusted horse sculpture in Auckland, in May 2016.
Pavon had pleaded not guilty to all charges in July 2016 at the Christchurch District Court.
The record seizure, with an estimated $14 million street value, was air freighted from Mexico to Auckland International Airport in May 2016 where it was discovered by authorities.
His lawyer, Ron Mansfield, said his client would now look to rebuild his life.
"He's the nicest guy you've ever met," Mansfield said outside court on Thursday.
"He was involved, he just didn't know what he was involved with, and so I can understand how the police, looking at it from the outside, thought he must have been involved."
Mansfield said Pavon may have been naive in trying to make a life for himself in New Zealand and thought he was involved in a legitimate business opportunity.
"He thought it was something that he could have legitimately become involved in and that was okay, he actually made inquiries to make it was okay - he just got it wrong," Mansfield said.