Tauranga stevedore accused of being part of plot to smuggle kilos of cocaine into NZ
A Tauranga stevedore accused of being part of a plot to smuggle hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from Mexico into New Zealand has been given more time to enter his plea.
Maurice Oliver Swinton, 42, from Te Puke, appeared in Tauranga District Court on May 28 via an audiovisual link from prison, facing a joint charge of conspiring to import a Class A drug into New Zealand.
His lawyer Tony Rickard-Simms told Judge Bill Lawson he was yet to receive full disclosure from police and asked for more time before his client entered his plea.
Swinton was remanded in custody to next appear in court on June 25.
Swinton lives in the Bay of Plenty and worked casually for C3 Limited, a stevedoring business contracted to the Port of Tauranga.
Eight other defendants also faced various drug importation and other drug offences.
The charges against the nine men stem from an eight-month covert investigation by the National Organised Crime Group and Customs investigators.
Operation Tarpon targeted those allegedly involved in conspiring to import large quantities of cocaine and P in New Zealand with links to a Mexican cartel.
Hundreds of kilograms of cocaine were to be concealed inside shipping containers, but the alleged conspiracy plot was disrupted before the shipment reached the country, according to the police.
Jeffrey Maraenui Gear, 43, from Ngongotahā, pleaded not guilty to two joint charges of conspiring with other defendants to manufacture P and possession of the drug for supply.
Angel Gabriel Gavito, 26, from Ōmōkoroa also pleaded not guilty to three joint charges of possession of P for supply, and two counts of importing cocaine into New Zealand.
Rotorua builder James Bradley Dickson, 38, pleaded not guilty to two joint charges of importing cocaine into New Zealand.
These three men elected trial by jury but no trial date has yet been set.
Rotorua carver Tamai Waitai, 34, faced five joint charges of conspiring with others to import cocaine, manufacturing P and possession of the drug for supply.
Waitai was remanded in custody to next appear in court on June 25 when pleas to his charges must be entered.
Te Kaha fisherman Tangaroa David Demant, 57, who appeared in court by an audiovisual link, is also yet to plead to five charges, including conspiring with others to import cocaine and manufacture methamphetamine.
His next court appearance is on June 14 for an electronic-monitored bail hearing.
Moreno Manuel, 62, from Mt Albert, who is on bail, had his court case adjourned to June 25 to allow more time to instruct a lawyer before entering his pleas.
Manuel is charged with two joint counts of possession of methamphetamine for supply.
Judge Lawson granted interim name suppression for a ninth defendant from Rotorua who is charged with one count of conspiring with others to import cocaine.
The 26-year-old man was remanded on bail to next appear in court on June 14 when the question of continued name suppression would be reviewed.
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