Lupesoliai Denies Any Involvement in Drug Conspiracy

Police have said "there was insufficient evidence to charge" Joseph Parker. Photo / Getty Images

Former WBO heavyweight champion Lupesoliai Laaulialemalietoa Joseph Parker has lost his battle in the Supreme Court of New Zealand to keep his identity hidden after prosecutors named him during the High Court trial of Tevita Fangupo, Tevita Kulu and Toni Finau in 2019.

Tevita Fangupo (left), Toni Finau and Tevita Kulu, with Halane Ikiua at the far right, during their sentencing at the Auckland High Court. Photo / Peter Meecham

All three were sentenced to time in jail following the case which implicated the  New Zealand-Samoan boxer, whose lawyers had managed to secure name suppression until now.

Despite not being charged, the Crown alleged Parker played a role in the importation of methamphetamine by transporting and changing currency.

The 29-year-old who holds the matai titles of Lupesoliai and Laaulialemalietoa vehemently denies the allegations as stated in his written affidavit, and also through his lawyer who addressed the media in a press conference this afternoon.

“I have never been involved in the importation of class A drugs,” Parker’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”.

Lupesoliai’s lawyer Michael Heron QC, said although they respected the Courts decision they did not agree with the ruling that declined the granting of permanent name suppression.

“Mr Parker has through me, dissolved to put this matter behind him, and concentrate on the future”, said Heron.

Lupesoliai’s lawyer reads out a statement on his behalf.

“It is a terrible position to be in.. things have been said about me that a quite untrue..some of them have already been proven untrue and I was given no chance to respond at the time they were made..”

“Its caused a lot of stress for myself and my family.. and it just seems totally wrong..”

“Having said that.. I have to accept the decision and get on with my life.. I have other fights to fight..” says Parker.

Police have said “there was insufficient evidence to charge” Joseph Parker. Photo / Getty Images

On the police investigation, Heron said a senior officer had reiterated if there was reliable, credible evidence they would have charged him.

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 Parker, it now accepts it cannot have been him because he was not in California at the time.

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

Joseph Parker fights Anthony Joshua at Principality Stadium, Cardiff in 2018. Photo / Dean Purcell

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.”

Prsented during the trial from Finau’s phone were a series of Wickr messages between himself and a user called “joeboxerparker” between a 4 day period from November 9 to 12 in 2017. This was later described by the Court of Appeal as “damaging” to Parker.

It has been accepted by Parker’s lawyer that joeboxerparker was his client’s Wickr address, but the Court does acknowledge that someone could have used Parker’s account.

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”.

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

The Crown contends the retrieved messages, 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.

Additionally, the joeboxerparker user seemed to be putting Finau in contact with an alternative supplier, the Crown claimed.

“He’s a good Dude with the best stuff,” the messages read.

“Do you still need a new contact? If so I’ll get you in touch today then you can hook it up haha.

“Trust me, it’s the best stuff out.”

Heron, a former solicitor-general, fought for his client throughout the legal proceedings against arguments by the media and Crown.

Heron said if named, the fallout would cause almost irreparable damage to Parker’s career.

Parker directly or indirectly employs a number of people to assist in his boxing career and a significant part of his income derives from sponsorship deals and merchandising.

The police had tried to interview Parker, but he exercised his right to silence.

A search warrant was also obtained for his house but never executed.

Detective Inspector Scott Beard has said Parker did not receive “special treatment” but added “there was insufficient evidence to charge” him.

In a High Court decision in June 2020, Justice Mathew Downs said while the police inquiry into members of the syndicate was thorough, “doubt attaches to whether the same is true of the inquiry of [Parker]”.

Police had also searched for records from the Travelex currency agency in relation to Parker during October 2017 but found none. However, a message from Kulu to Coka, which read his contact “is going to change it to US currency” did not say when this transaction would happen.

Justice Downs said it was not clear whether thought was given by police to investigating other currency agencies. He also said the “timing is curious” when police sought to interview Parker and only a week later told him he would not be charged.

Both the High Court and Court of Appeal also have said there is unquestionably, a high public interest in how methamphetamine is generally imported into New Zealand, including how it is financed, transported and how it is distributed once it arrives.

Justice Downs said in a decision from May 2019 that Parker’s “alleged purchase of methamphetamine from Mr Finau was an important aspect of the representative supply charge confronting Mr Finau”.

He continued: “Parker’s alleged preparedness to buy white pills from Mr Finau was advanced by Mr Finau as a material aspect of his case [that] the charges had not been established.

Again, the judge said, Parker’s identity was important.

“[Sioeli] Fakafanua – Mr Finau’s witness – said he clearly remembered what happened because he was ‘so starstruck’.

Coded communications intercepted by police provided the links which the Crown alleged showed Parker was involved in the conspiracy.

There were several references in the messages to puha (the Tonagan word for box), Nike, T-shirts, shoes and keys.

Court documents revealed Ziploc branded bags, distinctive colours, and packaged cylinders with cling film were used to transport the drugs.

“The significance of all this is that the defendants had a system – and this extended to payment for drugs in California,” Justice Downs said in his May 2019 decision.

“Mr Fangupo and Mr Kulu arranged for others to convert New Zealand money into United States money and take United States cash there. This brings me to the prominent sportsperson..”

The group, however, contested the Crown’s case at trial by arguing nothing more than steroids and bodybuilding supplements were imported and supplied.

Sioeli Fakafanua, a witness at the trial, said he saw Finau sell “white pills” to Parker around 2017.

However, no one could say what the white pills were but according to Finau it was reasonably possible the pills were steroids or bodybuilding supplements.

More Crown evidence alleged Parker was listed as a contact on Fangupo’s phone and in the messaging app Viber.

Singaporean experts were used to examine Kulu’s phone after he refused to provide police with its password.

What they found were WhatsApp messages, which prosecutors initially alleged showed that Parker exchanged and took drug money abroad. This is the allegation the Crown has since recanted for lack of evidence.

However, there were still Kulu’s messages to the Californian contact called “Coka”.

In October 2017, Kulu sent Coka messages about meth pricing and said he had “all ur money … the dude I was with that’s on my Snapchat is going to change it to US currency”.

“They won’t question him bout all the money … [people] know he rich anyways so he’ll be good to change it with no hassels,” Kulu continued.

Coka replied: “hahaha hell year that’s dope”.

The Crown alleges Parker is “the dude” in these messages.

Through his lawyer Lupesoliai says it is unfair that he has not had the opportunity to respond to these claims.

Lupesoliai Laaulialemalietoa Joseph Parker and his lawyer says he has not been charged with anything, and it is unfair that they are unable to respond to the allegations and suggestions made throughout Court proceedings.