’Folding washing’: Coded messages in meth case

The boat was found abandoned on Ninety Mile Beach. - Photo: Supplied: Police

A boat that washed up on a beach in Northland with 500kg of methamphetamine onboard led police to two siblings who, it argues, used coded and encrypted messages to hide a lucrative meth dealing operation.

Riki Wellington and his sister Chevon Wellington denied charges of possession and supply of methamphetamine at the High Court in Auckland.

Beginning arguments for the Crown, prosecutor Nick Webby said the case had its origins in June, 2016, in what was the largest methamphetamine seizure of its kind in New Zealand.

"The police seized 501kg of methamphetamine, destined for the New Zealand market, from a boat which had washed up on Ninety Mile Beach in Northland."

A woman connected to the boat led them to the Wellingtons.

Nick said intercepted phone calls showed the siblings and others connected to them had used coded drug talk, frequently changed phone numbers and used apps that allowed them to send encrypted messages.

"Methamphetamine, for example, was often referred to as 'work', cash was often referred to as 'clothes', 'laundry' or 'washing'. Counting cash was often referred to as 'folding washing' or 'folding clothes'."

Nick said Chevon made four trips from Auckland to Christchurch, where her brother lived, in October 2016. He said she was delivering large amounts of methamphetamine each time she visited.

"Chevon Wellington, you will hear, was the important link between her brother - and the drug distribution operation that he was running in Christchurch - and the people from Auckland who were supplying him with that methamphetamine."

Police raided Riki's home, he said.

"They found $150,000 in cash, in a shoe box inside a bag in his wardrobe. They found approximately $8000 in cash inside a shoulder bag in the same wardrobe."

Nick said the cash, along with four cars, were all proceeds from lucrative meth dealing.

Police also searched a hotel room connected to Mr Wellington and found 425g of methamphetamine in the room's safe.

Mr Wellington's lawyer Mark Ryan said the Crown alleged his client had received methamphetamine but no drugs were found on him when he was arrested.

"Presumably, because he's never found with any methamphetamine on him - it's supplied. That's for you [to determine]," he told the jury.

He asked jurors to keep an open mind, a point also made by Chevon Wellington's lawyer, Annabel Maxwell-Scott.

"You're going to be shown evidence in the form of mainly telephone communications. You're not going to hear from the people who make those phone calls. I'm just going to ask you to be very careful about some of that evidence."

She said the Crown was essentially asking the jury to make inferences.


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