EQC worker's downfall: cocaine

Brendan John Clarke had worked long and hard for the people of Christchurch, "triaging" EQC's earthquake response.

But he threw it all away for a fleeting "romance" with nearly three kilograms of cocaine.

In the High Court at Wellington yesterday, Clarke, 37, who has worked as a DJ under the name Bubbles, was sentenced to four years and eight months jail for having possessed what the police said was a $1 million shipment of cocaine for the purpose of supply.

His lawyer, Simon Hewson, said last September that Clarke was asked if he wanted to get involved when the planned distributor for the cocaine pulled out.

Clarke "flirted with" and "romanced" the idea but backed away and in the end agreed only to pay a courier $2000 for bringing it to Wellington, where it would be stored at a Thorndon Quay lock-up until he could take it to an associate.

Justice Robert Dobson said the 2.985kg of cocaine was brought into New Zealand in the bottom of a foreign drug courier's suitcase. The Mexican courier, David Negrete Nevarez, was sentenced last week to seven years jail.

The cocaine was 80 per cent pure and police said it had an estimated street value of $1m.

Clarke, who runs a building company, had at first been interested when the original purchaser backed out. But he then backed out himself and agreed only to receive it and store it.

Police found out about the shipment arriving and swooped when Clarke opened the suitcase to have a look at the cocaine.

He pleaded guilty to possessing the drug for supply.

The court heard that in 2010 Clarke started working as a contractor for the Earthquake Commission, inspecting Christchurch homes and supervising builders.

He was said to have helped revolutionise the way the commission "triaged" its response to the earthquakes and helped train more than 1000 people to use the new system.

Friends and colleagues attested to Clarke's good character, including a former drug squad detective who had worked with him in Christchurch, the judge said.

After Clarke was arrested the commission said it would review the work he had done in Christchurch. Commission organisational development general manager Heather Stewart said that review found no evidence of wrongdoing by Clarke regarding his work at EQC.

Fairfax NZ