Hong Kong man jailed for 23 years over record New Zealand crystal meth bust

Ka Yip Man, 26, pleaded guilty to taking part in the smuggling operation, that involved almost half a tonne of methamphetamine

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 June, 2017, 1:01pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 June, 2017, 1:01pm

A Hong Kong man has been sentenced to 23 years in jail in New Zealand for his part in the country’s largest ever methamphetamine smuggling case, according to a local newspaper.

Ka Yip Man, 26, was sentenced in the High Court at Whangarei, the country’s northernmost city, this week after pleading guilty to importing meth, the Northern Advocate reported.

He must serve a minimum of nine years and six months in jail before he can apply for parole, and he will be deported when the sentence ends.

Wan was one of two Chinese men who took a boat more than 12 nautical miles off Ninety Mile Beach – on the western coast of North Island – in June last year, picked up almost 500 kilograms of meth from another boat and returned to the beach.

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The drugs were then handed over to a group of Polynesian members of the syndicate before Wan and the other Chinese man, surnamed Tsai, left the beach.

Almost 50kg of the drug was buried in nearby sand dunes while the rest was put into the back of a campervan to be taken for distribution.

Local police recovered all of the drugs, the largest amount of meth ever found in the country, and caught most members of the syndicate, including Wan, who was arrested as he was trying to leave the country.

Tsai, however, manage to flee the country.

After his arrest, Wan said he was recruited in Hong Kong to take part in the drug venture and arrived in New Zealand in February last year as part of a tour group. He became involved, he said, to pay off gambling debts that some of his family had accrued.

Wan’s counsel Ian Brookie said his client was acting as an interpreter for Tsai, rather than being a major player in the operation. Brookie said letters from Wan’s teacher showed he was “feeble minded” especially when influenced by friends.

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But crown solicitor Mike Smith said Wan was more than a mere interpreter and was central to the operation because he was trusted to go on the boat from the beach to pick up the drugs.

Justice Graham Lang said while there was evidence of Wan acting as an interpreter for Tsai – including when the pair paid NZ$98,000 (HK$550,850) cash for a second boat to launch off the beach after the first was damaged – it was clear he was more than just an interpreter.

If Tsai just wanted an interpreter he would want somebody with better English than Wan, the judge said, adding that Wan had also met the organisers of the syndicate in Hong Kong.

Lang said Wan was the only person trusted to go on the boat to pick up the meth and when the drug was landed, he left the beach as soon as possible to avoid any chance of being caught. However, there was no evidence that Wan helped finance the scheme or would benefit significantly from the profits.

He said a starting point for sentencing was life imprisonment, but taking into account Wan’s circumstances a finite jail term was appropriate.