TODAY |

Trial of European trio over cocaine importation begins after five years

The trial of three men charged with orchestrating an international cocaine importation began in the High Court at Auckland today, nearly five years in the making.

High Court generic image Source: rnz.co.nz

By Jordan Bond of rnz.co.nz

The European trio - Ryszard Wilk, Patryk Lukasik, and Aleksandr Cherushev - are facing seven charges relating to 4kg of the Class A drug allegedly shipped to New Zealand from South America. They deny the charges.

In short, the Crown case is Cherushev, a Russian sailor, arrived by boat with the cocaine in September 2016. Wilk flew from Poland with his son, and received 4kg of cocaine from the sailor to offload it to another person whose identity is still not known. Lukasik, who arrived later from the UK, sorted the money.

"The Crown says that each of the three defendants... all played important roles, and different roles, in ensuring the cocaine was imported into New Zealand and supplied to others," prosecutor Sam Teppett said.

Teppett said they were not as covert as they thought.

"Police had been alerted to the fact the Wilks may be up to no good, and began intercepting communications made from their mobile phones. You'll get to listen to and read some of these communications, which the Crown says show drug dealing."

Having their phones tapped meant the police knew where they were meeting. Despite the money involved, their meetings were not exactly glamorous, the Crown said.

"On the 13th of September 2016, the Crown says the Wilks met with Mr Cherushev in the carpark at the New World supermarket in Mount Maunganui."

Police never actually saw any cocaine changing hands. Teppett told the jury that could be inferred from the content of the messages.

All three men deny the seven total charges they face.

Wilk's defence lawyer Annabel Ives said the Crown's case that there was mammoth amounts of cocaine was tenuous.

"At the end of the day, there was 3.6 grams of cocaine located on the 4th of August in a public reserve, four months after my client left New Zealand," Ives said.

Cherushev's lawyer Ron Mansfield told the jury the Crown's theory was just that.

"There is a chasm, folks, between what the evidence establishes, and what the Crown theory of this case is."

Three other men have already pleaded guilty to charges relating to this, including Wilk's son Ralph for supplying cocaine. Police found $40,000 cash in noodle packets in his suitcase as he flew out.

Two others - Bryan Williams and Mohammed Khan - pleaded guilty to money laundering.

The trial, before Justice Walker and a jury of seven women and five men, continues with the Crown's evidence tomorrow morning.