One of the two men sentenced today for the country's biggest methamphetamine bust ever was deported from Australia just 10 days before the drugs were collected.
Jeremiah Iusitini and Ulakai Fakaosilea appeared in court today for their sentencing after being found guilty of their part in collecting 494 kilograms of meth off the coast of 90 Mile Beach.
Iusitini called himself 'Thugga' in Blackberry messages to his mates, nicknamed 'Mack' and 'Gravel' - and the three discussed counting drug money, codenamed 'folding laundry or clothes'.
A High Court judge says the "greed" and "self interest" of the two drug importers could have wreaked a havoc that "doesn't even bear thinking about".
Justice Simon Moore told the men in court on Monday that their plan could have ruined the lives of many people.
"How many lives might you have ruined? How many families might you have destroyed?"
The New Zealand operation had two groups - one led by a Hong Kong national who arranged to retrieve the meth from the sea, the other directed by Australian national Jeremiah Iusitini.
On June 5, 2016, they bought a boat for NZ$40,000 in cash, and got locals to help them launch it four days later, saying they were going to spread relatives' ashes.
But the boat was damaged in the process, and so they went to Pakuranga in Auckland to buy another $98,000 boat, again paying in cash.
That same night, they picked up 494 kilograms of meth dropped out to sea. Having been alerted by suspicious locals, police found an abandoned boat on the beach.
While this scene was being investigated, Fakaosilea drove past, but he was spotted, chased and arrested.
Later, police found a campervan with suitcases packed with meth and a further 50 kilograms buried in sand dunes.
Justice Moore called the defendants 'peddlers of poison'.
"Your greed and your self-interest led you to forge on, regardless."
Iusitini was sentenced to 25 years and seven months in prison, with a non-parole period of 10 years.
Fakaosilea received 22 years, nine months' jail, with a non-parole of eight years, nine months.
"It's the court's task to signal its abhorrence by imposing hefty deterrent sentences," said Justice Moore.
Three other men had previously been sentenced to between 22 and 24 years, and one man received a lesser sentence of 12 years in jail, and was granted permanent name suppression.
It's still a mystery how the meth was dropped out to sea, and who did it.
Defence lawyer David Niven said the Hong Kong arm of this crime ring remains untouched by the law.
"There's a hierarchy in Hong Kong that are completely untouched by this operation, at least in terms of appearing in court and being dealt with in the criminal justice system."