Comancheros gang boss Pasilika Naufahu jailed for money laundering, conspiring to supply drugs

Comancheros boss Pasilika Naufahu has been sentenced to ten years in prison after last year being found guilty of money laundering and conspiring to supply drugs.

In October, after a four-week trial at the Auckland High Court, a jury found Naufahu guilty of two charges of money laundering as well as conspiring to supply the Class B drug pseudoephedrine.

He was sentenced to ten years in prison on Friday by Justice Graham Lang.

Justice Lang dismissed the defence’s attempt to limit the severity of Naufahu’s offending, saying that as the president of the New Zealand branch of the Comancheros, Naufahu’s role "was as the ultimate acquirer".

But Justice Lang agreed with Naufahu’s lawyer, Ron Mansfield, that Naufahu’s offending was partly a result of him being deported to New Zealand in 2016 through Australia’s 501 deportee programme.

Many members of the Comancheros gang in New Zealand are Kiwi-born Aussies deported back to Aotearoa under Section 501 of Australia's Migration Act. The section allows someone in Australia to be deported back to their home country if they don't pass a character test.

It's become  a sore point in relations between Australia and New Zealand as many of those being sent back have no current links to Aotearoa. 

Police released a statement on Friday, acknowledging the harm gangs cause to our communities.

"We believe today's sentence sends a strong message that this conduct which sees the likes of Naufahu cause harm to our communities by dealing in illegal drugs and flaunting the illicit gains," National Organised Crime Group Inspector Paul Newman said.

"They will be held to account and they can expect to see the inside of a jail cell for their crimes.

"The Comancheros like so many other gangs cause immeasurable harm to our communities by dealing in drugs and violence. This funds an outwardly lavish lifestyle, meaning the people they're preying on and their families suffer."

"This investigation shows our community that Naufahu, the Comancheros and other organised crime groups have absolutely no regard for those who fall victim to the use of drugs such as methamphetamine and that they are only driven by profit and greed."

Justice Lang on Friday said it "was somewhat inevitable" Naufahu would start a New Zealand chapter of the gang, as he was unable to build a lawful life as a deportee.

Mansfield told the High Court that Naufahu was unable to even open a bank account in New Zealand due to his 501 deportee status.

Naufahu left New Zealand when he was just one-year-old and the Court heard he had no family or social ties here.

Naufahu and other senior members and associates of the Comancheros - a motorcycle gang that originated in Australia - were arrested in 2019. Police seized nearly $4 million in assets during the operation, including a Rolls Royce and Harley Davidson motorcycles.

"More than 80 police staff, including special groups such as the Armed Offenders Squad, dog section and specialist search group have been executing search warrants at seven properties throughout the Auckland region," a statement from police said at the time.

Naufahu appeared alongside Comancheros member Connor Clausen and a woman at the trial. Clausen was found guilty on the drug charge, while the woman, who has her name suppressed, was found guilty of laundering money.