The Mongrel Mob infiltrated a Bay of Plenty security firm, with a member gaining a job as a security guard and feeding sensitive information back to the gang.
The firm's owner says police intelligence sources told him gangs were increasingly using such tactics to gain inside information, planting “cleanskin” members - new recruits without convictions – into businesses and even government departments.
In the Bay of Plenty case, the worker, who was sacked on the spot when his gang association was discovered, remains a licensed security guard – his name still appearing on the online register.
That's because of what the Security Association calls a "weakness” in the licensing system run by the Ministry of Justice.
The security company owner, who asked not to be identified to protect his business, said the former employee, in his 20s, approached him for work last year.
“He had references, some were from Destiny Church. He had no criminal history at all and he already had a security licence.”
The man was assigned to patrol a medical cannabis facility the firm had a contract with. A colleague overheard him talking to someone on the phone.
“He was talking about the layout of the site and what was going on there. The other worker asked him who he was talking to and he said it was his Mongrel Mob captain, who turned out to be from the Kingdom chapter in the Waikato."
The employer said when he was informed of the incident, he began making inquiries.
“The police had no record of him being in the Mob but our own inquiries confirmed that.”
There is no sign of Mongrel Mob insignia on the man's social media pages seen by Stuff, but in some images he is wearing red and black - the gang's colours - and making gang hand signals.
The security firm owner said he sacked the man but police had to be called because he wouldn't give his uniform back. He was only on the job about a week.
Gangs are increasingly infiltrating legitimate businesses, sources say. Photo: Stuff.
The man said the former worker's proximity to a medical cannabis facility was concerning.
"In Colorado when they legalised recreational cannabis they had a massive increase in organised crime strong-arming legitimate growers, trying to muscle their way in.”
He said he informed the Private Security Personnel Licensing Authority (PSPLA), which sits under the Ministry of Justice, of the incident and warned other firms in the area.
Gary Morrison, the chief executive of the New Zealand Security Association, said he was aware of “situations where employers have found they have employed a gang member, what we'd call a cleanskin.
"It has happened, and we've had a discussion with the licensing authority on that and looked at ways we can . . . address it.”
As it stood, being in a gang would not automatically lead to a person's licence being cancelled, Morrison said.
“We encourage our members to provide us with those details and we're happy to make a complaint to the registrar and that could result in a hearing and the withdrawal of the licence.
"There is a process to address it, but I think there is to a degree a weakness in [the system]. It is a concern, particularly when you've got a person who has no direct, overt links [to a gang] - it can be difficult to identify that.”
Bruce Findlay, manager of operations for the ministry, said the PSPLA's role was to issue licences and discipline licence holders, but it did not have a mandate to actively monitor the behaviour or character of security guards.
“The authority is reliant on receiving a complaint from the public, the police, or other regulatory bodies in order for investigations to be carried out and to discipline licence holders,” Findlay said.
Factors considered before issuing a licence included criminal convictions “and whether a person’s character or behaviour aligns with the purpose of the role”.
Police were given the chance to object.
Prior to 2019, a complaint could only be filed against a licence holder if they committed an offence or for misconduct during work.
Changes to legislation had introduced new discretionary grounds for cancellation, “if the person is no longer deemed suitable because of character, circumstances or background,” Findlay said.
Asked if police were aware of gangs infiltrating businesses, a spokesperson for police national headquarters said they knew of a variety of methods used.
“These are specifically designed to exploit any opportunity to gain information valuable to their aims and are not exclusive to any single avenue of approach.”
Police could not elaborate for "operational reasons".