‘Tongan Pablo’ identified in corrupt Air NZ baggage crew smuggling drugs from Los Angeles into Auckland

A Tongan man has been named as the senior baggage handler at Auckland Airport who had arranged for his criminal colleagues to import methamphetamine into Aotearoa during the Covid-19 lockdown.

A New Zealand Herald report this week has identified Sese Vimahi as the man who arranged to import 20kg of methamphetamine in a suitcase, with an estimated street value of $8 million.

“Syndicates members called Sese Vimahi the “Tongan Pablo” – in reference to infamous Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar for his role in smuggling drugs into his country”, the Herald said.

Describing his role in the drug importation attempt, the Herald said: “A US supplier would pack meth inside luggage and have it in the bulk hold of the plane from Los Angeles. At this end, Vimahi would arrange for Air New Zealand bag handlers to find the bag and remove it without going through security.

“The rip on rip off tactics is common around the world and relies on organised crime syndicates having trusted in working at the boarder.

“Through this corrupt network, Vimahi was still able to facilitate the importation of methamphetamine on flights from Los Angeles to Auckland despite being on bail. He was arrested, for the second time, in November 2021 following a joint investigation between the National Organised Crime Group and Customs”.

The revelation comes after Stuff reported earlier this year that a baggage handler who was a key figure in trying to import methamphetamine into Aotearoa during the Covid-19 lockdown, has been jailed for 14 years.

The 47-year-old, who Stuff cannot name at the time, was arrested alongside Tongan musician Romney Fuki Fukofuka​, also known as Konecs.

At trial, the evidence showed he was a key organiser, texting instructions to Fukofuka to put the drug-ladened suitcase on the baggage carousel.

He had also arranged for his criminal colleagues, also formerly baggage handlers, to get the suitcase off the baggage carousel and deliver it to him outside the airport where he was waiting. Some were promised $20,000 for a successful drop-off.

The other co-accused were George Aloha Taukolo​, Daniel Ah Hong​ and Mark Castillo ​all previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to import methamphetamine and were each sentenced to 12 months of home detention at Manukau District Court.

Judge Richard McIlraith​ said the trio showed “genuine remorse” for the parts they played in the attempted importation.

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