Lupesoliai Joseph Parker linked to drug case

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 12 March 2021, 12:00AM

Samoa’s golden boy, Lupesoliai Joseph Parker has been named as the sports star that New Zealand police are alleging has been linked to an international conspiracy to import methamphetamine into the country. 

An order suppressing Lupesoliai’s name from publication in relation to the matter was the subject of a two-year legal battle finally lost in the New Zealand Supreme Court on Friday afternoon. The suppression order was allowed to expire. 

The former World Boxing Organisation (W.B.O.) heavyweight champion has not been charged in relation to the case. But the Crown alleged that he played a role in a drug ring involving three other men who conspired to import methamphetamine and was involved in transporting and converting currency to facilitate transactions. 

The 29-year-old wanted to keep his identity hidden after prosecutors named him during the N.Z. High Court trial of Tevita Fangupo, Tevita Kulu and Toni Finau in 2019.

The former heavyweight champion has strenuously denied the allegations, including under oath in the form of an affidavit.

"I have never been involved in the importation of class A drugs," Lupesoliai’s affidavit reads.

"I have never changed or transported money for the defendants. I have never been involved in the purchase, supply or consumption of methamphetamine

"Nor was I charged by the police in relation to the specific messages alleged to relate to me, after what appeared to be a thorough investigation."

There were two particulars prosecutors said indicated a connection, but the Crown has since recanted one of them.

The first was a text message to Kulu from a Californian supplier of the group, known as "Tonga", on July 5, 2017.

It was to the effect that he was "taking sese and joe out" and they would be changing New Zealand currency for him. 

Sese was a contact for the syndicate.

While Joe was initially said by the Crown to be Lupesoliai, it now accepts it cannot have been him because he was not in California at the time. 

Some claims against the boxer by the Crown, however, are still maintained.

A later text from Kulu to another Californian supplier, "Coka" was more explicit, stating Kulu had "paid one of the guys I was with today to change [the price] into [US] currency".

The second message read: "Alright bro..I got u tho..have all ur money..the dude I was with that's on my snapchat is going to change it to U.S currency..they won't question him bout all the money..cause he's the WOB boxing champion so pple know he rich anyways so he'll be good to change it with no hassles."

Evidence at trial from Finau's phone also revealed a series of Wickr messages between himself and a user called "joeboxerparker" between November 9 and 12 in 2017. This was later described by the Court of Appeal as "damaging" to Parker.

It has been accepted by Parker's lawyer Michael Heron, QC, that joeboxerparker was his client's Wickr address.

Heron argued at the Court of Appeal "[a]t most ... [this] evidence could be used to allege possible involvement in the recreational purchase or use of drugs."

The court, however, said the messages "go further than that".

"However, it is important also to note that it is conceivable that someone other than Mr Parker was using his Wickr account," the Court of Appeal decision from October 2020 reads.

The retrieved messages, the Crown contends, appeared to show the user of the joeboxerparker account arranging for the purchase or supply of small quantities - up to a quarter of an ounce on each occasion - of drugs over the four-day period.

The terminology suggested the drug being dealt was probably meth, the Court of Appeal's decision reads.

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 12 March 2021, 12:00AM

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