'Most indiscreet name imaginable': NZ man imports $5.5m of meth as 'Quade Cooper'

Taiomo Robert Gillett imported methamphetamine into the country under the assumed name of Quade...
Taiomo Robert Gillett imported methamphetamine into the country under the assumed name of Quade Cooper. Photo: Supplied via Open Justice
A man who orchestrated the importation of $5.5 million worth of methamphetamine into the country did so under the name of well-known Australian rugby figure Quade Cooper.

Taioma Robert Gillett had identification cards made using his photograph but Cooper’s name and would flash them when he picked up his illicit packages, which he’d had addressed to Cooper.

Today, Gillett appeared in the High Court at Whangārei before Justice Andrew Becroft, who did not seem impressed by his choice of alias.

“Quade Cooper, which I must say is just the most indiscreet name imaginable as he is a well-known and controversial rugby player,” he said.

However, Justice Becroft said he had heard they were “very good fakes” and could easily be passed off as the “real thing”.

Gillett was being sentenced for his role in a sophisticated meth importation ring after multiple drug shipments, bound for a Northland address, were intercepted in a joint operation between police and Customs named Freya.

The activities began in March 2020 and involved a group with links to the Head Hunters gang.

Operation Freya led to 11 search warrants being executed across Morningside, Rāwhiti, Ruakākā, Whananaki, and Rotorua.

However, Gillett’s involvement was stumbled upon almost by accident in January 2022 when police were called to his address over an unrelated incident.

When officers searched his Te Atatū property they uncovered multiple fake driver’s licenses bearing his photograph but false names, such as Cooper’s.

Electronic devices seized revealed communications using various fake email addresses for drug importations and payments.

Surveillance footage also captured Gillett at Kiwibank Ōtaika and an Air New Zealand Freight depot paying for customs and freight fees and uplifting a parcel from South Africa in what he thought was 5.1kg of meth.

But by this stage, police had already intercepted this package and had Gillett under surveillance.

Police linked him to five instances of importation from South Africa and Thailand involving parcels addressed to a Takahiwai property.

The packages contained exercise equipment and around 8.3kg of concealed meth, which has an estimated street value of $5.5 million.

During his arrest, Gillett refused to co-operate fully and withheld a pin number crucial to unlocking his phone data.

He was one of the last to be sentenced in relation to the operation.

In court, defence lawyer John Moroney said Gillett had a major meth addiction and was smoking up to seven grams a day.

He said this fueled Gillett’s offending.

But Crown prosecutor Alex Goodwin said that was an exaggeration.

Gillett’s role in such a sophisticated operation would not be possible if someone consumed that amount a day, Goodwin submitted.

“He was not merely a street dealer, he is heavily involved in a sophisticated organised group importing significant quantities. That addiction is not operative.

“Anyone with a raging addiction would not normally be at this level of sophisticated offending, they would be at a lower level trying to source the drug for his addiction.”

Goodwin said although Gillett had previous links to the King Cobra gang and others were affiliated with the Head Hunters, it was not a gang-led operation.

Justice Becroft described him as “the middle man” trying to keep the ringleader, a long-time friend, out of the spotlight.

He said Gillett’s offending was serious with three driving factors.

“You had ongoing involvement in multiple importations, second you had advanced knowledge of the importation and third you had permanent false identification documents.”

Justice Becroft sentenced Gillett to nine years imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of four years.

Then he imparted some final words.

“You do not need me to tell you meth is a scourge, an insidious and corrosive drug that destroys lives from the inside out.

“If you don’t get it this time, you never will.”


Where to get help:
• 0800 METH HELP (0800 6384 4357)
• Alcohol Drug Helpline (Phone 0800 787 797 or text 8681)
• They also have a Māori line on 0800 787 798 and a Pasifika line on 0800 787 799

By Shannon Pitman
Open Justice multimedia journalist