A tip-off by a suspicious Bunnings employee led to the
discovery of a Rotorua drug manufacturing operation, a court
Phillip John Vant Leven, 53, is on trial in Rotorua District
Court after pleading not guilty to nine charges relating to
the manufacture of methamphetamine and its ingredient
pseudoephedrine. Vant Leven faces one charge of manufacturing
Class A drug methamphetamine, one of conspiring to
manufacture methamphetamine and one of producing Class B drug
He is also charged with one count of possession of a
pre-cursor substance, three charges of possession of
materials and two of possession of equipment, all with the
intent to use them to manufacture methamphetamine.
He had earlier admitted one charge of possession of equipment
and one of possession of a pre-cursor substance for the
manufacture of the drug.
In her opening address yesterday, Rotorua Crown prosecutor
Amanda Gordon told the jury the charges arose from three
separate search warrants, carried out in 2009, 2010 and this
In October 2009, as part of an organised crime squad
investigation, police searched a Riri St property owned by
Vant Leven, although he was not personally a target. The
property contained one large building divided into three
sheds. In one shed, rented out by Vant Leven, two people were
discovered in the process of manufacturing methamphetamine.
Police then searched the shed used by Vant Leven and found a
number of items commonly used in the manufacture of
methamphetamine, including pseudoephedrine and hydrochloric
acid, glass pyrex dishes containing remnants of the drug,
glass beakers and tubing.
In a desk drawer they found documents on the drug including a
step by step guide or "recipe" which it was accepted was
written by Vant Leven.
Ms Gordon said that when questioned by police, Vant Leven
said some of the items were for legitimate use, while others
he had "found" outside the shed.
In July 2010, police visited a Kaharoa home as part of a
missing person investigation. While there they saw a car
parked in the garage that was registered as stolen so a
search warrant was obtained. On the back seat they found a
large metal urn described by Ms Gordon as a mobile
clandestine laboratory, with Vant Leven's fingerprints on
some of the items.
The occupier of the house confirmed she had rented the garage
to Vant Leven. Ms Gordon said Vant Leven told police he was a
user and was addicted to methamphetamine but was not involved
in its manufacture.
Ms Gordon said that in May this year Vant Leven's partner
entered Bunnings Rotorua and bought two litres of spirits of
salts. She left the store then returned a minute later and
exchanged them for one litre of spirits of salts and one
litre of acetone - both used in the manufacture of
An employee followed her to the car park and saw her get into
a car driven by Vant Leven. The employee told her supervisor
who alerted police.
The next day police executed a search warrant at Vant Leven's
home in Edward Payton Grove. At the front door, the officer
noticed a strong chemical smell coming from the house and
Vant Leven. The fire department and specialist police "clan
lab" team were called and found the extraction of
Pseudoephedrine is the starting drug used in the manufacture
Ms Gordon said Vant Leven told police he had been offered
$6000 to do the extraction for a man he refused to name, but
claimed he didn't know what it would be used for. The trial
is expected to run until Friday.
- By Katie Holland of The Daily Post