Rotorua man jailed for $137.5m meth haul
A Rotorua man who had methamphetamine in his possession with a street value of $137.5 million, enough to cause $170 million worth of "social harm" to his community, has been jailed.
Lionel James Ruka McDonald, 42, who earlier pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine was sentenced at the Rotorua District Court on Friday to 13 years and nine months imprisonment, with a minimum term of seven years.
Crown prosecutor Amanda Gordon says that amount had the potential to cause $175m in social harm.
He initially faced one extra charge of the sale of methamphetamine, which he had plead not guilty to before the charge was withdrawn.
Lionel was arrested back in August last year after police executed a search warrant at a Rotorua address, initially announcing the discovery of 20kg of methamphetamine, with a second search at a storage shed in Ngongotaha locating a further 40-50kg of the drug.
At sentencing, and in the police summary of facts, it was revealed Lionel was in fact in possession of 137.5kg of the drug, some packed in Chinese green tea packaging.
"The methamphetamine located in the defendant's utility and storage facility would have a street value of $137.5 million," the summary of facts says.
According to Amanda, "It's value in terms of social harm is in the region of $170 million if that methamphetamine had been distributed in our community."
The summary of facts notes that figure was ascertained as the "Drug Harm Index figure".
Defence lawyer Andy Schulze says his client was merely the "custodian" of the methamphetamine, and that a combination of a $200 a day gambling habit and naivety had led him to accept an offer, when approached, to become involved.
Sentencing Judge Greg Hollister-Jones, however, was unconvinced.
"I just don't accept that."
He cited the fact McDonald was an intelligent man, and a manager holding a responsible position, to dismiss that claim.
Judge Hollister-Jones also described the amount of drugs recovered as "among the top level of seizures in New Zealand".
The summary of facts also refers to the seizure as the largest in the Bay of Plenty.
He did agree with one of Andy’s propositions however, that the offending was "completely out of character".
Judge Hollister-Jones also revealed McDonald had "declined to provide the police with any information about the methamphetamine and it sources", citing fears for the safety of his wife.
At the time of his arrest Rotorua Police area commander Inspector Phil Taikato said the removal of a "significant" amount of methamphetamine would help prevent drug related harm in the community.
"There is no denying the detrimental impact methamphetamine has on people's lives," he said.
"It has the ability to destroy families and lives, and the desire to obtain the drug is a driver of crime and harm within our community."