New Zealand Police say they have dealt a "huge blow" to organised crime after a major trans-national sting resulted in 35 arrests and $3.7 million in assets seized.
Open Justice multimedia journalist, AucklandVIEW PROFILE
A well-known entertainer is accused of laundering money for the leader of an international drug ring by hauling hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gold bars to Turkey.
The man, who has had a successful career in New Zealand and overseas spanning more than 35 years, has won a bid to keep his identity under wraps until the case goes to trial next year.
The Court of Appeal, in a decision released on Friday, said publishing the man's name at this stage would cause him extreme hardship, which outweighed any public interest in naming him before the trial.
The Crown has laid two charges against the man - money laundering and participating in an organised crime group, in this case an international methamphetamine ring.
According to the decision, it is not in dispute that in July 2019 the entertainer met a co-defendant in a cemetery and received $420,000, which the Crown alleges was the proceeds of drug offending.
The entertainer used $416,000 to buy gold bullion and travelled to Turkey 10 days later with the gold, showing Customs documents that said he was transporting it on behalf of another person.
In Turkey, the entertainer met the alleged leader of the meth ring and a Turkish associate, before coming back to New Zealand later the same month.
He claims he became involved at the request of someone he knew and trusted.
The sole issue at trial will be whether the man was knowingly involved in money laundering or was reckless in that regard, the Court of Appeal said.
The entertainer is among 40 people charged in New Zealand in June 2021 as part of Operation Trojan Shield.
The global sting targeted alleged criminals using an encrypted messaging app created by the FBI and Australian Federal Police to gather intelligence. More than 800 people worldwide were swept up in the sting.
He is scheduled to go on trial with nine others in May 2023, and was first granted interim name suppression at Rotorua District Court last year.
In April, the High Court declined the man's application for continued name suppression, which he appealed.
Revealing the defendant's name prior to trial would damage his ability to make a living as an entertainer, defence counsel Ron Mansfield, QC, said during the suppression hearing held in March.
"He would be reliant on a benefit if he was not able to do any work," Mansfield argued.
"That damage to his reputation would be permanent even if he was found to be not guilty of these allegations."
Granting the interim suppression today, the Court of Appeal said it was satisfied that publishing the man's name before the trial would cause extreme hardship both immediately and in the long term.
Each case must be considered on its own merits, the court said.
"If their reputation is of critical importance, they may well be able to demonstrate that publication of their name would likely cause them extreme hardship."
At this time, the accused is also unable to publicly comment on the allegations other than to say he has pleaded not guilty before the trial.
"We also take into account that the nature of the charges do not suggest any need for reporting to safeguard the public, as might be the case in charges involving sexual or violent allegations, for example," the decision read.