A Wellington drug kingpin, whose back story reads like an episode of the television drama, "Underbelly", is tonight beginning a six year jail sentence.
Anthony Newton, 57, was sentenced in the Wellington District Court today on one charge of importing the Class A drug, methamphetamine, and a charge of using a document to obtain a pecuniary advantage.
The latter charge related to a document Newton used to obtain a loan to finance the importation.
In 2009 he and his co-accused, Dinesh Manoharan, [http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/229982/man-jailed-over-drugs-hidden-at-airport travelled to China where they obtained the methamphetamine, which was put into condoms and secreted about Manoharan's body.
The pair had met in Rimutaka Prison in late 1998 when Newton was serving a 10 year sentence for importing heroin.
Newton and Manoharan were stopped at Customs on their return to New Zealand in 2009. While left alone in an interview room at Auckland Airport, Manoharan removed the drugs from his body and hid them in a roof cavity.
They remained hidden there until discovered by Customs officers in 2012.
Manoharan was sentenced to four years last October.
Newton had fought the drugs charge, not changing his plea until the day after his jury trial began.
Plea for adjournment denied
That fight continued today, with his lawyer, Letizea Ord, asking for an adjournment so he could attend a residential rehabilitation programme.
Ms Ord said Newton's health had deteroriated markedly since he had been in jail on remand and he was suffering severe health problems which have reduced his life expectancy.
They include cirrhosis of the liver, attributable to Hepatitis C, high blood pressure, and hormonal problems.
The Crown opposed the application to defer the sentencing and Judge Denys Barry agreed, saying to grant it would not be in the interests of justice.
"It is not appropriate to delay the sentencing," he said. "Such a rehabilitative initiative - if it's initiated - must, if it's furthered, be part and parcel of release initiatives, and I feel constrained to proceed with the sentence."
Judge Barry ordered Newton serve at least half of his sentence, saying he had been the promoter of the drug importation.
Manoharan was jailed for four years, but Judge Barry said Newton must serve at least half of his jail term of six years and two months, as he had greater involvement in the importation and had obtained the money to finance it.
Police warn against drug trade
Detective Sergeant Haley Ryan said Newton played a large part in distributing methamphetamine in Wellington and his imprisonment would have an impact on his customers.
She also had a warning for those tempted by the drug trade.
"When they are apprehended they are held accountable and it is held a serius and they do get a substantial penalty."
Ms Ryan said she would encourage anyone thinking of taking part in this type of offending to think twice."
Today wasn't Newton's first brush with the law over drugs.
In 1995 he employed a Wainuiomata grandmother, Phyllis Tarawhiti, to bring heroin into New Zealand.
She was stopped at the airport in Thailand and found to have heroin worth about $40 million strapped to her body. Newton left her there to suffer the consequences.
Ms Tarawhiti was initially sentenced to death, but pleaded guilty and spent 11 years in a Thai prison.
Other drug offending
1987 - Newton was convicted and jailed for 10 years for importing heroin into Australia. The drugs were concealed in a small wooden elephant shipped from Thailand to his parents' home and he was caught while removing it from the statue.
1990 - While in jail he was convicted on a charge of possession of heroin.
1991 - Again, while still behind bars, Newton called a contact in Thailand arranging a further drug importation into Australia and had another 10 years added to his sentence for that.
1995 - Newton was voluntarily deported back to New Zealand.
1997 - convicted of importing heroin into New Zealand hidden within his body and jailed for seven years.
Later in 1997 he was convicted of involvement in the Tarawhiti drug importation attempt and jailed for another 10 years.