Boxing

Former world champion named in major drugs conspiracy

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Joseph Parker has been named as having alleged links to a major international drug importation and supply conspiracy. No charges were ever brought against the boxer, who has always vehemently denied any involvement with the conspiracy.

Parker, who held the WBO heavyweight title from 2016 to 2018 before being beaten by Anthony Joshua, has fought to keep his name secret at several hearings in New Zealand’s High Court and Court of Appeal over the past two years.

His lawyer stated the fallout would cause almost irreparable damage to his career.

But the Supreme Court ended his bid for secrecy and declined to grant him leave to appeal a decision by the Court of Appeal to dismiss a challenge not to grant permanent name suppression back in October.

"In the present case, there is no dispute that publication would cause undue hardship to the applicant, so the discretion to make a suppression order was enlivened," the Supreme Court said in its judgement delivered on Thursday.

"However, in all of the four decisions considering the application, the Courts have determined that the discretion should not be exercised in favour of suppression, having regard to open justice principles."

The suppression was allowed to continue for another 24 hours to "provide the applicant with the opportunity to communicate the result as he needs to".

"After that time, there will be no impediment to the reporting of the applicant's name," the court ruled.

Parker was named by prosecutors during the High Court trial of Tevita Fangupo, Tevita Kulu and Toni Finau in 2019 but wanted to keep his identity hidden.

The Crown alleged that Parker played a role in the importation of methamphetamine by transporting and changing currency, an accusation strenuously denied by Parker, including under oath.

In the form of an affidavit, Park said: "I have never been involved in the importation of class A drugs.

"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.”

Parker released a statement via his lawyer, Michael Heron QC, saying he had bee placed in a "terrible position”.

"Things have been said about me that are quite untrue; some of them have already been proven untrue, and I was given no chance to respond at the time they were made.

"It's caused a lot of stress and worry for myself and my family – and it just seems totally wrong.

"Having said that, I need to accept the decision and get on with my life. I have other fights to fight.”

Heron said that Parker “has had no opportunity to respond” due to matters being aired in a trial he was not part of.

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Heron also said that a senior officer had reiterated they would have charged him if there was reliable, credible evidence

"The evidence was admissable against the men on trial and their lawyers had a chance to offer a rebuttal. Mr Parker did not have that. The jury made no decisions about Mr Parker.”

Police tried to interview Parker, according to the New Zealand Herald, but he exercised his right to silence whilst a search warrant was obtained but never executed.

Parker did not receive “special treatment”, according to Detective Inspector Scott Beard, but he added ”there was insufficient evidence to charge" him.

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