The sportsman’s lawyer Michael Heron, QC (standing), says his client has nothing to do with importing or financing drugs. Photo / File
A top New Zealand sportsman has had his bid for permanent name suppression rejected a fourth time after prosecutors accused him of being involved in a global drug conspiracy – but his identity can not be revealed yet.
It is expected the sports star will file a further appeal to the Supreme Court.
In September, after the sport star lodged his fourth appeal, the Court of Appeal heard the case for a second time.
Today, that court again denied the man permanent name suppression but he was given leave to, once again, apply for interim name suppression to allow him to appeal the latest judgement.
The sportsman was named during the drug-trafficking trial of Tevita Fangupo, Tevita Kulu and Toni Finau in Auckland last year.
Despite not being charged, the sports star was accused by the Crown of being “intimately” linked to the offending, which included methamphetamine importations from California.
He has strenuously denied the allegations, including under oath.
After the trial, presiding judge Justice Mathew Downs declined an initial bid for permanent name suppression. This led to a series of appeal hearings, including by the Court of Appeal, which declined suppression for the sportsman last year.
However, as all involved prepared for a Supreme Court showdown, the case returned to the High Court after new information emerged and led to a fresh suppression application.
But in June, the High Court and Justice Downs again dismissed the effort for a forever gag order.
The sportsman’s lawyer, former solicitor general Michael Heron, QC, said prosecutors had been “careless” about what they said during the trial.
“They didn’t need to allege his involvement, they didn’t need to name him. And when they did it wasn’t fair, responsible or necessary,” he said at the September Court of Appeal hearing.
“He has never transported or changed cash for these people, he has never had any dealings with importing methamphetamine. He has said that on oath,” Heron said.
Since the trial, the Crown has abandoned one of its earlier allegations against the sportsman, which relied on a series of phone messages and a contact called “Sese”.
It was claimed the messages showed the sports star changing currency for the syndicate, but the allegation was withdrawn after immigration records were provided for the sportsman.
It was this change and new information from a colleague of the man that indicated publicity would compromise his career opportunities to the tune of at least $5 million which allowed him to make a fresh application toe the High Court.
The court refused to grant permanent suppression, saying the evidence used in the drug trial which related to him was admissible and the police had only withdrawn one of the statements about his involvement.
The court also said that his prominence and financial means would allow him to draw prominence to the fact he was never charged and that one of the allegations had been withdrawn.
“The only new evidence of any consequence concerns the retraction of the Crown submission about the “Sese” text referring to the sportsman. We found that, in context, to be a merely neutral consideration. It cannot justify a different result in this new appeal,” the court’s decision concluded.