Four men have been jailed for their role in importing methamphetamine out of California, allegedly with the help of a well-known New Zealand sportsman.
During sentencing today, the Crown claimed the drug syndicate even had an insider at Customs or New Zealand Post.
Tevita Kulu and Tevita Fungupo were the crime kingpins.
"The two of you saw a chance to make a lot of money and took it. You were not recruited by others here or abroad. You both established this operation, then you both ran it," Justice Downs said at the Auckland High Court.
It was in June 2017 when that operation unravelled.
Kulu, a former American footballer from Oklahoma University, had the drug contacts in California.
Fungupo arranged addresses for the drugs to be sent to in Auckland and payment of the US suppliers.
The conspiracy involved 21 kilograms of meth and 27 grams of cocaine, posted in multiple packages, and disguised amongst sports shoes or clothing.
"Most packages described the contents as a gift. Most contained Nike footwear," Justice Downs said.
"Photographs on your phone show you holding a rock of methamphetamine almost the size of a fist."
Police found photos on Kulu's phone showing bundles of cash.
At trial, the Crown claimed the syndicate had help from a high-profile sportsman, known only as X.
X is alleged to have helped finance the deal by exchanging New Zealand dollars into US dollars.
A message on Kulu's phone stated: "They won't question him about it because he's the (redacted)". People "know he rich anyway so he'll be good to change it with no hassles," it said.
More allegations also linked the sportsman to buying meth and "white pills".
Police obtained a search warrant but it was never executed and the sportsperson was never charged.
His name is suppressed.
It's alleged the syndicate had an insider - although this was never proven.
"The Crown alleged you had someone inside our postal services - perhaps even Customs helping you," Justice Downs said.
Kulu was given 18 years' jail, Fungupo 17. Co-offender Toni Finau got eight-and-a-half years for his role importing drugs.
Halene Ikuia got just over three years for allowing drugs to be sent to his barbershop - although he was just a "pawn" in the conspiracy.