Wanaka man pleads guilty in cocaine case

A Wanaka painter involved in a $1 million cocaine distribution ring dubbed "a Guy Ritchie plot line without the bloody ending" has been told that jail is an inevitable outcome.

Cameron Lockie, 36, pleaded guilty in the High Court at Christchurch today to supply of the Class A controlled drug.

His arrest was part of a police operation dubbed Operation Gringo, launched after 3kg of cocaine was found hidden in a suitcase carried by Mexican David Negrete Nevarez, who arrived at Auckland Airport on December 13, 2011.

The next day, Lockie phoned a British mate, Daniel McGannan who was living in London, and they began organising how to buy and sell the drugs.

Meanwhile, police picked up on the dealings.

Using covert surveillance techniques, the Organised and Financial Crime Agency watched Nevarez deliver the cocaine to Auckland woman Samantha Margaret Gemmell, 27, who in turn passed it to Adrian Marquiss Kemp, 31, in a Mission Bay carpark.

Watched by police, Kemp transferred the package containing the drug to Wellingtonian Brendan John Clarke, who agreed to find buyers for the cocaine.

A statement of facts said Lockie arranged for his friend Clarke to purchase the cocaine - with an estimated street value of up to NZ$1.2 million - for US$140,000 (NZ$172,000).

Once he picked up the cocaine in Wellington on December 18, 2011, Clarke texted Lockie the next day, saying: "Hey bro, heading down now. See you soon. See you for lunch and I will give you this dam (sic) case," to which Lockie replied, "Sweet".

They met at midday on December 19 outside the Kathmandu store on Blenheim Road in Christchurch where a suitcase was handed over to Lockie.

Police, who watched the drop-off under surveillance, then swooped and Lockie was arrested.

He was originally charged with importation, but told police that he had not been involved in, nor was he aware of the importation of the drugs until it was already in New Zealand.

Today ahead of his trial at the High Court, he pleaded guilty to a new charge of supplying the class A drug in December 2011.

He was remanded on bail ahead of sentencing on June 26.

Justice Alan MacKenzie told him a sentence of imprisonment was inevitable.

Nevarez, 43, previously pleaded guilty to importing and possession of cocaine for supply and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Gemmell and Kemp each pleaded guilty to one charge of possession for supply and were jailed for two years, six months and two years, 10 months respectively.

Clarke pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine for supply and will spend four years and eight months in prison.

McGannan was jailed for six-and-a-half years last month after also pleading guilty to one charge of supplying the Class A drug.

Today, defence counsel Pip Hall QC, asked for Lockie to be considered for home detention or a community-based sentence.

He said he'd been on bail until now, living and working in Wanaka, without any problems.

Justice Mackenzie granted bail until sentencing so his family could prepare themselves for the impact of his jailing.

But he ruled out calling for community-based sentence reports, saying it would only give him and his wife "false hope".

- Kurt Bayer of APNZ

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