John McKenzie jailed for 3 years 10 months

01:47 PM 13 Dec 2013 NZDT
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John McKenzie jailed for 3 years 10 months
John McKenzie jailed for 3 years 10 months

Life had "turned to muck" for a retired dairy farmer who became the financier for a major methamphetamine ring, a judge was told before he jailed the man for three years and 10 months.

John Douglas McKenzie, 65, of Ohoka in rural North Canterbury, expected a very handsome return for the $180,000 he "invested" in the Christchurch meth conspiracy that the police busted with their Operation Granite investigation.

He would have got a return of $144,000 when the investment fell due. Instead he has forfeited $180,000 cash to the Crown, and he was jailed at his sentencing by Justice Christian Whata in the High Court at Christchurch today, more than a year after the trial.

Defence counsel Jonathan Eaton, QC, said the offending had arisen from naivety coupled with greed, but it was unfair for the judge to see a financier as equally culpable as the principal drug offenders.

"When the case began three-and-a-half years ago he would have envisaged quietly living out his life on the farm, and everything's been turned to muck," he said.

McKenzie continues to deny his guilt, despite the jury finding him guilty on a charge of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.

"He never intended nor understood that he was getting involved in the level of operation that has ultimately been proved to be the case," Eaton said.

He pointed out that McKenzie had drawn up a written loan agreement with the drug-ring kingpin, 32-year-old Matthew Allen Newton, and had the document witnessed. The agreement was found by police in a search of his property along with a note from Newton about part repayment.

Crown prosecutor Barnaby Hawes said that the terminology of the note, the size of the loan, and the expected 80 per cent return on his finance indicated McKenzie was aware of the scale of the enterprise.

Justice Whata said he regarded McKenzie's involvement as "opportunistic and motivated by greed". He had expected a very significant return on his investment.

"The jury found that there was a proper basis for finding that you knew Newton was involved in the commercial-level manufacture of methamphetamine and that you knew that your loan would assist him in that enterprise," he said.

But he was not satisfied that McKenzie was aware the scale of the operation, or that the investment return would be derived solely from the operation. Newton had been the CEO of a complex enterprise and he had skilfully isolated members from each other "so that no other member had a complete picture of its scale".

He told McKenzie that without financiers, methamphetamine production could not occur.

Justice Whata reduced McKenzie's jail sentence because of his unblemished record, his contribution to the community, his emotional condition, and his age which would cause him difficulties in serving a prison term.

McKenzie was described as a retired dairy farmer who had a passion for horse and harness racing, and had contributed to the local community and school. He has no previous convictions.

He is the last of the Operation Granite meth conspirators to be sentenced, after his sentencing was delayed by a series of appeals. The longest jail term for the conspirators was the nine years and seven months imposed on Newton.

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