Former world champion boxer Joseph Parker has lost his fight for name suppression - after being linked to a court case in which a group of men were convicted of importing methamphetamine.
The Supreme Court today denied Parker his final chance to keep his name secret, after being denied four previous times.
The Crown alleged during the trial of three men that Parker played a role in importing methamphetamine by transporting and changing currency for the syndicate trafficking the drug. But the high profile sportsman was never charged and he therefore sought name suppression as he had not had a chance to clear his name in court.
Defence lawyer Mike Heron QC had argued on behalf of Parker that if the sportsman’s name was made public it would compromise his ability to extend a fight contract worth $5 million. It would also jeopardise further opportunities and cause undue hardship, he said.
Tevita Matangi Fangupo, Tevita Sitanilei Kulu and Toni Rajendra Finau were found guilty of importing methamphetamine in 2019.
Police had tried to interview Parker in relation to that case but he had exercised the right to silence. And detectives were granted a warrant to search Parker’s house, but never carried that out. A High Court judge previously said it was “unclear” why this had not happened.
Police today defended their investigation, and Parker said: "This has been going on for ages now, and it takes a toll. I haven't been charged with anything and it doesn't feel right that my name will be connected to matters I've had no chance to defend myself against.
"It's a terrible position to be in. Things have been said about me that are quite untrue; some of them have already been proven untrue, and I was given no chance to respond at the time they were made.
"It's caused a lot of stress and worry for myself and my family - and it just seems totally wrong. Having said that, I need to accept the decision and get on with my life. I have other fights to fight."
In its testimony, the Crown produced text messages from the defendants which it said referred to Parker.
The first text, to Kulu from a California-based supplier, described a person being paid to change a price into US currency and referred to “taking sese and joe out”. But the Crown later accepted this could not have been Parker as he was not in the US state at the time.
A second text, which was not retracted by the Crown, said: “Alright bro..I got u tho..have all ur money..the dude I was with that’s on my snapchat is going to change it to U.S currency..they won’t question him bout all the money..cause he’s the WOB boxing champion so pple know he rich anyways so he’ll be good to change it with no hassles.”
There were also a number of messages on Wickr, an encrypted site, between one of the accused and “joeboxerparker” - Parker’s account - arranging for the supply of small quantities of drugs over a four-day period in November 2017.
While the Court of Appeal concluded that the terminology used – “round one” - suggested the drug being dealt was probably methamphetamine, in a sworn affidavit Parker said: "I have never been involved in the importation of class A drugs. I have never changed or transported money for the defendants. I have never been involved in the purchase, supply or consumption of methamphetamine."
The Supreme Court said in today’s ruling that “the applicant has not been charged with, let alone convicted of, any offence arising from these alleged incidents”.
The Court of Appeal previously said it was possible someone other than Parker was using the account.
That court, in an earlier decision also declining Parker’s name suppression, stated there was legitimate public interest in the police action and whether they had been influenced by Parker’s profile in not accessing all the facts.
Detective Inspector Scott Beard said today following the Supreme Court's decision: "While Police did find evidence that this sportsperson knew all of the men who were accused and subsequently convicted, police applied the Solicitor-General’s prosecution guidelines and found that there was insufficient evidence to commence a prosecution.
"Police obtained a search warrant to obtain the sportsperson's cell phone. However, at the time the search was to take place, he was not at his address and had travelled overseas."
Mr Beard said the investigation was thorough, professional and fair and the status of the sportsman did not have any influence on it.
The Supreme Court said there was no doubt publication of Parker’s name would cause undue hardship to him, but noted “open justice principles” before declining to continue name suppression.
Parker flew to the United Kingdom on Tuesday night, prior to the court’s decision being released.