Second Tauranga man convicted after 500kg meth bust, with street value of up to $150m

A second Tauranga man has admitted his role in the importation of 500kg of methamphetamine into New Zealand with an estimated street value of up to $150 million.

Anthony Charles Netzler, 53, from Mount Maunganui pleaded guilty to joint charges of importing methamphetamine, possession of meth for supply, and supplying the drug.

Netzler, a part-time martial arts instructor, entered guilty pleas to the charges when he appeared in the Tauranga High Court on March 3 via a video link from prison.

Netzler admitted that he, Charles Scott Care, and a third associate imported meth into the Bay of Plenty and elsewhere in New Zealand on April 16 and September 18, 2019.

It is the second-largest P bust in the country behind the 501kg of methamphetamine smuggled from a mother-ship off the coast of Ninety Mile Beach, Northlandin June 2016.

Netzler also pleaded guilty to joint charges of possession of 500kg of P for supply and a further charge of supplying 210kg, 193kg and a further amount of the drug consignment to associates in Rotorua, Hamilton and Auckland.

His crimes were committed between April 16 and September 18, 2019.

The drugs with an estimated street value of $130m to $150m were imported into New Zealand on April 16, 2019.

Care, 49, from Oropi was sentenced to 12 years and nine months’ prison, with a minimum non-parole period of eight years in August, after he admitted his part in the importation.

The Crown summary of facts revealed that Netzler and Care separately travelled to Bangkok in December 2018.

Once in Bangkok they met with others and arranged for a large drug consignment to be sent to New Zealand on an unspecified date.

Care, the owner-operator of Charlie’s Fishing Charter business, agreed that his Kyla J charter vessel could be used to collect the drugs offshore.

On about April 10, 2019, Netzler told Care that the vessel with the drug shipment was approaching New Zealand and preparations were made to go out to meet it.

On April 12, 2019, Netzler bought 12 luggage bags, including eight labelled as “NBL Basketball” from K Mart stores in Bethlehem and Mount Maunganui.

Also bought that day at Bunnings in Whakatāne, was 30 “Wrap and Move” packing containers, two 200kg courier trunk trolleys, nitrile gloves, packing tape and a dispenser.

Two days later Care, then living in Whakatāne, also bought groceries from New World Whakatane and torches and batteries from Mitre 10.

Around midday, Netzler, Care and another associate left Whakatāne, onboard the Kyla J and travelled about 185km to an area known as The Rumbles and metwith an unidentified catamaran.

The trio took possession of about 500kg of methamphetamine, and the catamaran headed north, while the Kyla J returned to Whakatāne marina on the morning of April 16.

The third associate loaded the bags of P into a van and drove away.

In late April and early May 2019, Netzler received instructions on an encrypted device to try to find premises to store some of the drug consignment.

As a result, he met and sought the help of another associate in Rotorua to store and secure an undisclosed portion of the 500kg P consignment.

Netzler agreed to pay the other man $20,000 a month for securing the meth.

In July 2019, after a tip-off, police executed a search warrant at an Auckland city apartment.

In the wardrobe, they found 11 cardboard cartons labelled “Wrap and Move” and a further bound container in a shopping bag with large clear meth-like crystals inside.

Inside the 11 cardboard boxes were a total of 193 rectangular plastic containers, labelled as being manufactured in Mexico, which contained nearly 200kg of meth.

Among the other items seized were cellphones, a foldable trolley and large travel bags identified as the same bought in Tauranga in April 2019, three unmarked carry bags.

In September 2019 during a surveillance operation, police followed a suspect vehicle from Rotorua to Hamilton and a short time later searched a Hamilton address where they seized 12 “Wrap and Move” boxes.

Inside were 210 plastic containers each containing1kg of methamphetamine.

Police say more than 410kg of the 500kg meth imported into New Zealand was recovered in Auckland and Hamilton between July 31 and September 18, 2019.

Netzler and Care were both arrested in February 2020.

When police searched Netzler’s address they found five bundles of cash – about $20,000 in NZ notes and nearly $30,000 in Australian dollars.

In October last year, during a second taped interview, Netzler told police that he believed that he and Care had each been paid $700,000 for their involvement.

Prior to his arrest Care received between $600,000 and $700,000 from Netzler for his assistance in bringing the 500kg importation to shore, the summary of facts said.

Justice Graham Lang convicted and further remanded him in custody for sentencing next month.

Two others have also been sentenced for their roles in the drug operation – one has been jailed for 11 years, six months and the other for nine years, seven months.

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