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Fifteen years' jail for massive meth haul

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 8/05/2017

A Hong Kong man arrested in one of New Zealand Customs' biggest-ever meth busts has been sentenced to more than 15 years behind bars.

Kai Yip Cheung, 20, was found to have helped import 176kg of methamphetamine in 2016.

In the High Court at Auckland on Tuesday, Justice Simon Moore imposed a sentence of 15 years and 5 months, with possible parole after nine years, saying the quantity of meth imported was "staggering".

Cheung received a discounted sentence because he was not the drug operation's mastermind or a leading figure and because he was young, genuinely remorseful and a low risk of reoffending.

He looked at the floor throughout the sentencing.

The drug bust in July 2016 was New Zealand Customs' largest-ever meth seizure at the time.

It came after a 16-month investigation during which they intercepted 10 shipping containers and discovered the drugs hidden as tea packages in the doors.

Justice Moore said the syndicate Cheung was part of had likely shipped drugs before because four previous container deliveries had been made to a company set up in New Zealand to import scaffolding.

He said the scaffolding business was a front and the containers from these deliveries had also had the bolts from their doors removed, indicating they too contained drugs.

Cheung's role at the Manukau warehouse where the containers were delivered was to extract the drugs.

He had been recruited by the syndicate in Hong Kong as a 19-year-old and later told authorities he had been in debt and needed fast money.

Arriving in New Zealand in December 2015, he obtained a student visa, but was frequently absent from his English language studies.

Judge Moore described Cheung as being more than a mule in the drug syndicate but less than a mastermind or decision maker.

He said the charges against Cheung were serious because meth was leading many Kiwis down a path of ruin.

"It is the most dangerous and destructive drug abused in New Zealand," he said.

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