Thursday, 1 September 2011

Three members of an Australian motorcycle gang were among 10 people arrested in armed police raids

Three members of an Australian motorcycle gang were among 10 people arrested in armed police raids in New Plymouth yesterday.

Police searched 13 New Plymouth properties, one in Otaki, one in Auckland and seven in Northland during Operation Puff, a co-ordinated, multi-district electronic surveillance operation to stop the Rebels gang gaining a foothold in New Zealand.

Ten people – eight men and two women – were arrested in New Plymouth, including the three patched Rebels members and two associates.

Yesterday, six men and a woman, appeared in the New Plymouth District Court. They face charges from participating in an organised criminal gang, conspiring to supply methamphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy, and cultivating cannabis, to theft of electricity.

They are:

Nathan James Couper, in his 30s: participating in a criminal group with two others, conspiring to supply cocaine, conspiring with seven others to supply methamphetamine, cultivating cannabis, conspiring with nine others to supply ecstasy (MDMA), stealing electricity worth between $500 and $1000 from Powerco. Remanded in custody by consent until Thursday.

A manager in his 30s, interim name suppression: participating in a criminal gang, cultivating cannabis, theft of electricity. In custody by consent.

Dallas Francis Hikaka, 41, a nurse: participating in a criminal gang, conspiring to supply methamphetamine, cultivating cannabis. Remanded in custody by consent to Thursday.

Michael George Green, 38, process operator: conspiring to supply methamphetamine and ecstasy. Remanded on bail to September 15.

Ryan Blackburn, 24, labourer: conspiring to supply methamphetamine and ecstasy. Released on curfew to September 15.

Atamu Lee Manuel, 23, Crave Club DJ: conspiring to supply ecstasy. Remanded on bail to September 15.

Nateesha Angelica Moke, 23, unemployed: conspired to supply ecstasy and methamphetamine. Remanded on bail to September 15.

The operation is the second crackdown on the gang. The first operation was in February and resulted in more than 30 arrests across five North Island districts. Vehicles, cash, firearms, gang patches and drugs were seized.

In New Plymouth yesterday, police discovered two cannabis growing operations, at separate properties.



They seized eight grams of white powder believed to be benzylpiperazine (BZP), and an imitation rifle.

Detective Inspector Chris Bensemann said police believed the Rebels were involved in the distribution of methamphetamine, ecstasy, cannabis and BZP in Taranaki and Northland.

"What speaks volumes is that the three identified patched Rebels members in New Plymouth have been arrested and charged with serious drug offences," Mr Bensemann said.

At one property, police found 50 young cannabis plants.

Mr Bensemann said police wanted to stop the Rebels gaining a stronghold in New Zealand.

"What concerns us, both locally and nationally, is their intention to recruit. The arrival of the Australian Rebels and their continued recruitment is not only a Central District police priority but remains an ongoing national focus," he said.

"Back in February we made it clear that we would not tolerate criminal gangs pedalling misery in our communities.

"We don't want them in New Zealand, let alone New Plymouth."

There are believed to be about 70 patched Rebels members in New Zealand.

Nationally police made 22 arrests, including one high-ranking Rebel gang member in Northland who has been charged with unlawful possession of a firearm – a loaded cut-down .22 pump action gun which was hidden in his home.

More arrests are anticipated over the coming weeks.

Other charges include conspiracy to supply methamphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy, cannabis cultivation, drug possession and participation in an organised criminal group.


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