Comancheros: Gang president found guilty of money laundering and drugs charges

The president of the Comanchero Motorcycle Club has been found guilty of money laundering and conspiring to supply pseudoephedrine, a precursor to methamphetamine.

After more than four weeks, the High Court trial against president Pasilika Naufahu, Connor Michael Tamati Clausen and a woman with name suppression has come to an end.

The trio were arrested following a series of raids across Auckland in April 2019 in which more than $3.7 million in assets was seized along with luxury cars, motorbikes, high-end luggage and jewellery.

On Wednesday, after a day and a half of deliberations, the jury found Naufahu guilty of two charges of money laundering in relation to the purchase of a Bentley and Ford Ranger.

The gang boss was also found guilty, along with Clausen, of conspiring to supply pseudoephedrine.

Connor Clausen was charged with conspiring to supply pseudoephedrine.

The woman was found guilty of laundering nearly $300,000 for the Comancheros, which was used to purchase luxury cars.

Justice Graham Lang convicted the three defendants and will sentence Naufahu on November 24.

Clausen and the woman will be sentenced on December 9.

A media personality, who has name suppression, and accountant Wiwini Himi Hakaraia were originally on trial alongside the trio.

However, they had their charges of money laundering and participating in an organised criminal group formally discharged partway through the trial.

A number of vehicles were seized in the April raids.
NZ POLICEA number of vehicles were seized in the April raids.

Naufahu also had a charge of conspiring to import a class A drug dropped.

The Comanchero members and associates were arrested in April 2019 after a massive police search.

In total, 18 were arrested, with three still set to go to trial in the district court next year.

Lawyer Andrew Simpson and the gang’s vice-president Tyson Daniels were among those arrested.

Simpson was jailed for two years and nine months after admitting laundering more than $2 million for the gang.

Daniels was sentenced to four years and eight months after he pleaded guilty to participating in an organised criminal group and nine counts of money laundering.

Andrew Simpson was jailed for laundering more than $2 million for the Comancheros.
Chris McKeen/StuffAndrew Simpson was jailed for laundering more than $2 million for the Comancheros.

Ahead of the trial, another two gang members – Jarome Fonua and Vetekina Naufahu – also pleaded guilty. They will be sentenced later this month on money laundering and drugs charges.

The High Court trial

At trial, the Crown’s case was that Naufahu arrived in New Zealand with zero dollars in his bank account. Over the course of three years, more than a million dollars was deposited and withdrawn.

A number of trusts were set up and various bank accounts were used to launder money to then purchase luxury cars and property.

But Naufahu’s lawyer, Ron Mansfield, said he’d been painted as a demon and the police were obsessed with him.

No drugs or money was found at his home, Mansfield said.

Naufahu admitted participating in an organised criminal group and four charges of money laundering, in relation to the purchase of his Bucklands Beach house, ahead of the trial.

No mythical $1 million

The Crown’s case was that Clausen was the one to deliver the money, inspect the pseudoephedrine and take it back to Naufahu, either to make methamphetamine or to simply on-sell it.

But Clausen’s lawyer, Simon Lance, said the man and had not acted criminally.

A video, taken by police, was played to the court showing the brother of a man who the Crown says is at the “heart of the case” and an Australian hairdresser meeting with Clausen.

The hairdresser, He Sha, was jailed earlier this year after he admitted crossing the Tasman to sell pseudoephedrine in a failed deal.

However, “there was no exchange of drugs”, Lance said.

“There was no transaction. There was no mythical $1 million.”

Seven months later, Clausen’s home was searched. No drugs or money was found.

The woman, who faced one representative charge of laundering $292,496, was far more interested in taking “relatively easy money” than investigating where it was coming from, the Crown said.

Numerous intercepted calls between a man, said to be the cash handler, and the woman have been played to the court as well as videos of the pair entering various banks across Auckland.

“We’re working tomorrow sweetheart,” the man says on one of the calls before asking her to bring her ID to the bank.

However, her defence lawyer Paul Heaslip said it was a case of a “friendship gone wrong and betrayed trust”.

The woman did not know it was “dirty money”, Heaslip said.

New Zealand - BNN.