The “right-hand man” of a senior Comanchero living overseas has been refused an early release from prison because of his association with the gang.
Kelly Eugene Edmonds, 41, is serving a four-year sentence for attempting to sell 13.5kg of methamphetamine which was estimated to be worth $8.1 million.
The Class-A drugs were found hidden inside heavy machinery imported from Hong Kong in February 2018.
Edmonds appeared before the Parole Board in September, which revealed that while he did not have any convictions in New Zealand, Edmonds had served an eight-year prison sentence in Australia for “obviously very serious drug offending”.
He was deported to New Zealand in 2017 as one of thousands of so-called 501s, nicknamed after the section of the immigration law used to remove them from Australia.
Dozens of these deportees were members or associates of Australian motorcycle gangs which – despite their small numbers – have had a disproportionate influence on the New Zealand criminal landscape.
The Comancheros are one of these gangs and the Parole Board was concerned to hear of Edmonds’ connections to the notorious group.
The specific detail is redacted from the board’s written decision but Edmonds’ case manager suggested banning him from associating with Comancheros as a specific condition of his eventual release from prison.
Edmonds denied any association with the Comancheros but the Parole Board was not convinced.
“We do not know in a direct sense whether he does have an association with that gang, but it seemed to us unlikely that the case manager had made a series of serious and repetitive mistakes about the same issue,” said Sir Ronald Young, the chair of the board.
Because of the gang link and his serious repetitive drug offending, Sir Ronald said Corrections had not “adequately assessed” Edmonds’ risk of re-offending and parole was declined.
The Parole Board asked for a full psychological report to take into account Edmond’s criminal history in New Zealand and Australia, to what extent previous rehabilitation had worked, and what other programmes might reduce his risk.
Edmonds’ sentence ends in November 2024 but he will reappear before the Parole Board in February.
The Herald can reveal Kelly Edmonds was a close associate of a senior Comanchero leader at the time of his arrest in Sydney on drug importing charges.
Duax Hohepa Ngakuru was born in Rotorua but grew up in Sydney where he rose through the ranks of the Comancheros during a time of violent turf wars between rival gangs.
While Edmonds was sentenced to eight years in prison, Ngakuru fled to Turkey as the “international commander” of the Comancheros where he is still believed to be living.
Ngakuru, 42, has been the principal target in a covert police investigation in New Zealand since 2016, Operation Van, which later merged into the so-called “sting of the century” run by the FBI and Australian Federal Police.
The law enforcement agencies tricked alleged organised figures around the world into using Anom, an encrypted communication platform, on which they believed they could talk to each other freely.
In reality, Anom had been built by the FBI and the Australian Federal Police and the investigators were given backdoor access to millions of messages and photographs that criminal groups thought were impossible to intercept.
The incriminating communications were shared with 16 countries and Operation Trojan Shield was unveiled in June with more than 800 arrests and millions of dollars and tonnes of drugs seized.
This unprecedented treasure trove of intelligence included messages sent by Duax Ngakuru which dovetailed with an ongoing New Zealand police inquiry into an alleged drug dealing alliance between the Comancheros and members of the Waikato Mongrel Mob.
In those supposedly secret communications, Ngakuru called himself by several different aliases including “Negotiator”, “Bullseye”, “Chuck Norris”, and “El Mito” (The Myth).
Edmonds has not been charged in Operation Van but is described in police documents as Ngakuru’s “right hand man” until his arrest in New Zealand.
Ngakuru himself has now been charged in the Hamilton District Court with cocaine and methamphetamine conspiracy offences, as well as import and supply of Class A and B drugs, money laundering and participating in an organised criminal group.
New Zealand Police are seeking to extradite him from Turkey so he can face trial here.
Eariler this month, Detective Inspector Paul Newman confirmed to the Herald that a warrant has been issued for Ngakuru’s arrest and that Interpol have issued a “red notice” in case Ngakuru attempts to cross an international border.
“He was recently believed to be residing in Turkey and inquiries are continuing with the Turks to confirm this,” Newman said in a written statement.
“We are hopeful that Mr Ngakuru will want to return to New Zealand voluntarily to answer the allegations against him, but if he doesn’t there are legal remedies that can compel him to do so.”
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