A martial arts instructor who became the kingpin of one of New Zealand’s largest methamphetamine importations did so to continue living the “high-life” he couldn’t afford otherwise.
Tauranga man Anthony Charles Netzler, 53, appeared virtually in the High Court in Hamilton on Thursday, having masterminded the importation of 500 kilograms of meth with a street value of about $150 million in street value. It was one of the largest importations of methamphetamine into New Zealand.
Today, Netzler was sentenced to 15 years and seven months’ imprisonment.
Netzler, a part-time martial arts instructor, was arrested in February 2020 following a six-month police operation.
A summary of facts revealed Netzler travelled to Bangkok, Thailand, in December 2018 where he arranged the delivery of the drugs to be collected offshore from New Zealand.
In April 2019, Netzler bought 12 luggage bags, 30 “Wrap and Move” packing containers, two 200kg courier trunk trolleys, nitrile gloves, packing tape, a dispenser, torches and batteries.
He then set out from Whakatāne onboard an associate’s charter boat to rendevous with an unidentified catamaran carrying the meth. They met in an area known as The Rumbles, 185km away, where Netzler took possession of the drugs before returning to shore. The bags of meth were loaded into a van at Whakatāne before being driven away.
In late April and early May 2019, Netzler received instructions on an encrypted device to try to find premises to store some of the drug consignment and stashed some of the meth in Rotorua.
In July 2019, after a tip-off, police raided an Auckland city apartment and found 11 cardboard cartons labelled “Wrap and Move” and a further bound container in a shopping bag with large clear meth-like crystals inside.
A total of 193 rectangular plastic containers, labelled as being manufactured in Mexico and containing nearly 200kg of meth were inside the boxes. Cellphones, a trolley and large travel bags were also found.
Police also found 12 “Wrap and Move” boxes containing 210 containers each containing 1kg of meth, with about 80 per cent purity.
When police searched Netzler’s Mount Maunganui address they found five bundles of cash – about $20,000 in New Zealand notes and nearly $30,000 in Australian dollars.
Netzler was paid $700,000 for his efforts.
He pleaded guilty to importing methamphetamine, possession of meth for supply, and supplying the drug.
Via virtual link online at the High Court, Crown prosecutor Anna Pollett told Justice Melanie Harland that Netzler’s offending involved paying an associate $20,000 per month to stash meth at his dojo, providing that associate with an encryption device, recruiting a seaman to help bring in the drugs, and overseas travel.
Pollet said Netzler’s sentence needed to reflect the “extremely serious matter and volume and role” he played in what remains one of the largest importations of methamphetamine in this country.
“Even then, that was by 1kg. [The largest] was 501kg in the far north. This is 500kgs.”
Two other men were also arrested for their involvement in the operation.
In August 2020, Charles Scott Care was sentenced to 12 years and nine months’ imprisonment having pleaded guilty to charges of importing methamphetamine, possessing meth for supply and for supply and supplying the drug.
On June 23, Samuel Rhys Brooking was sentenced to a year of home detention on a charge of money laundering.
Pollett told Justice Harland Netzler was “far more culpable and far more significantly involved” than those he recruited.
“The defendant took a lead role in the operation of importing these 500kgs into New Zealand.”
Pollet said Netzler’s offending was primarily to receive significant financial gain “and of course, he did”.
“His lifestyle if you like, it seems was unable to be funded by him. Mr Netzler wanted to live the high life but he didn’t have the high-life funds to be able to sustain that. That is what led to his involvement in this large scale importation.”
More than 410kg of the 500kg of meth was recovered in Auckland and Hamilton between July 31 and September 18, 2019.
Ryan did not dispute his client’s intention to supply the drug for financial gain but “Mr Netzler is still a young man with a good prospect of rehabilitation and low likelihood of reoffending”.
Justice Harland told Netzler his family had been “devastated by your offending”.
“No one appears to have thought you would’ve gotten yourself involved in this sort of offending, let alone on this scale,” she said.
“You have let many people down by involving yourself in this operation.”
Harland said Netzler received “significant payment” and he played an operational and management role.
“You were the crucial link . . . you were not only the only New Zealand link in this importation chain but you were actively involved in the preparation and implementation of it.”
However, Harland noted Netzler’s remorse appeared to be sincere and that he had a good prospect of rehabilitation from the “insidious and evil world of methamphetamine”.
The maximum penalty for the charges Netzler faced is life imprisonment.
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