HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 570:29 June 2011

Accused get bail – name suppression expires

The identities of all those accused in the high profile drug bust just over two weeks ago have now been made public. In the Avarua High Court this morning, Justice Williams ruled not to continue the order of name suppression, which had been in place since 13 people were arrested on more than 55 drugs-related charges. The suppression order was due to expire on Wednesday 25 May.
Seven people appeared before the bench today to hear bail applications and the name suppression order continuance. The seven accused, who had been remanded in custody since being arrested, were: Scott Arlander, Giovanni Marsters, Hinano Matapo, Mere King, Samuel Tangaroa, Alain Estall, and Ricky Carlson.
Last special week, four defendants were granted bail with special conditions. They were: Mark Franklin, Dina Matapo, George Nicholls, and Victor Wichman. At the previous hearing on bail applications, two defendants were released from custody – Nooroa (Faimou) Robati was allowed bail with conditions and Tina Upu was released pending sentencing on 3 June. She pleaded guilty to a cannabis possession charge.
As a result of a sting operation dubbed Operation Eagle, which concluded in early May, the accused face a list of drugs charges, mostly related to cannabis. Arlander however, is up on a charge related to importing LSD, a hallucinogenic narcotic. The multiple charges against the other defendants include growing, selling, possession, and importing cannabis and cannabis seeds. One, Marsters, also faces charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice, as well as conspiracy. Marsters partner, Hinano Matapo, is up on charges that include counts of bribery and selling.
Full disclosure of the charges is not yet complete as the Crown prosecution is awaiting results from scientific testing of evidence - being conducted in New Zealand. This could take another two weeks, further delaying the entering of pleas by those accused.
The case has generated so much public interest that two media organisations – Cook Islands News and (TVNZ’s) One News – applied to the court for permission to photograph and film the accused. Early in the court sitting, Justice Williams chastised One News cameraman Richard Postles for filming in the court precincts without first obtaining permission. Postles was instructed to erase all the footage he had shot in the morning. However, in subsequent consideration of the formal applications, Williams allowed the media to photograph and film the defendants under a once only opportunity and only in connection with the case.
The Crown prosecution did not oppose bail for the remaining seven defendants who had been in custody. However, the conditions applied are lengthy and attracted considerable discussion between the bench and bar. A 24 hour curfew condition for example, which applies to several of the accused, is subject to individual circumstances, which primarily relate to employment. Some of the accused are self-employed while others are seeking jobs. There are also reporting requirements and directives not to engage in drug-taking or associating with the other defendants.
While all are now released on bail, the court made reference to the fact that a trial is not likely to occur this year. It could be up to eight or nine months before trial. The defendants had attracted considerable attention as a result of their family connections and places of employment. Marsters is the son of Deputy Prime Minister Tom Marsters, who was in court this morning. The defendant is also the de facto partner of co-defendant Matapo – a former policewoman and daughter of former Police Commissioner Tevai Matapo. Franklin also generated a lot of interest, particularly in New Zealand where he had served as a Police Detective and investigator of significant crimes. And Arlander’s alleged involvement in drug dealing has a certain irony given he operates a night club called Rehab.
Justice Williams ruled that there is no basis of continuing suppression for any of the accused. The public interest has been fueled by gossip and the court decided it was better for the accused to be named. The twelve accused have been instructed to re-appear before the court on 30 June.

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

Copyright 2006 Cook Islands Herald online . All rights reserved.