Ten men accused of involvement in a lucrative Auckland
designer drugs ring that pressed illegal pills decorated with
rip-off corporate logos have gone on trial.
Arrested in police drug bust Operation Ark, the 10 are said
to have been part of the importing and supplying of pills
designed to have the same effect as methamphetamine or
ecstasy, in what was a profitable multi-million dollar
The men face between two and 53 charges each involving class
B and C drugs.
Opening what is scheduled to be an 18-week trial in the High
Court at Auckland, Crown prosecutor David Johnstone yesterday
told the jury that over an 18-month period in 2010 and 2011,
the ring imported powders hidden in packages bound for a
The powders were then taken to a warehouse where they were
pressed into pills that bore corporate emblems like Adidas',
the Rolling Stones lips and car logos.
"The manufacturers used the drug powders that had been
imported [and] mixed in other things like colouring, dyes and
binding agents to form the pills properly," Mr Johnstone
The coloured pills were then distributed through "unofficial
and secret channels".
Secrecy also surrounded discussions between members of the
ring. On the phone they would avoid directly mentioning pills
and they would use Skype to talk and a secret email system
called Hush Mail.
The accounts were kept on a Google drive, rather than any one
computer, Mr Johnstone said.
The Crown says the pills amount to "analogue controlled
drugs", which are illegal.
Mr Johnstone said the man in charge was gambling on the fact
they had taken enough steps to keep their enterprise secret
and that the case would be difficult to prove because of the
scientific evidence required to show the pills were illegal.
The man, whose name is suppressed, took the risks because of
the massive amounts of money involved.
Mr Johnstone will continue opening the Crown case today
before defence lawyers make opening statements.
Who is who, according to the Crown?
Man with name suppression, facing 53 charges, "The big
Man with name suppression, facing 53 charges
Johnny Be Good, facing 52 charges
The Crown says these men made millions and millions of
dollars, which they shared.
* The office worker
Stanley Marshall Alphonsus Leone, facing 51 charges. Alleged
to have worked from a North Shore office where sales were
* The delivery man
Matthew Giordani, facing 47 charges. Police found pills at
his house when it was searched. He denies any knowledge of
* The scientist
Name suppressed, facing 52 charges. Earned $100,000 a year
through his work at the cosmetics company, the Crown alleges.
Police found $800,000 cash in cardboard boxes in his
warehouse, and more cash was found at his office.
* The manufacturers
George Jeffrey Reed, facing nine charges
Grant Oswald Petersen, facing 20 charges
Police found a pull press at a commercial unit owned by
Petersen. He says his activity was legal.
* The distributors
Kevin Sean Challis, facing four charges
Kelvin Sonny Cress, facing two charges.