Focus Live: Armed police raid Auckland car yard, seize vehicles. Video / Leon Menzies
A Comancheros gang member already serving a prison term for a drink driving crash that resulted in the death of a taxi driver was ordered today to serve an additional sentence for his role in a major methamphetamine operation.
Farshad Esfehani-Bahadori, 25, joined the Comancheros misguidedly looking for a sense of belonging and brotherhood after suffering racism and bullying upon his arrival in New Zealand as an Iraqi refugee when he was young, Auckland District Court Judge Kevin Muir said today, noting that the gang was the target of a 10-month-long investigation into meth supply dubbed Operation Maddale.
He ordered a sentence of five and a half years’ prison, taking into account discounts for the defendant’s guilty pleas for three counts of possession of methamphetamine for supply, his remorse and his difficult childhood.
But Judge Muir also ordered that the sentence be served consecutively, meaning Esfehani-Bahadori will first have to complete the three years and eight months’ prison he is serving for the fatal crash.
A breath test showed Esfehani-Bahadori to be over three times the legal limit when he killed new father Abdul Raheem Fahad Syed, 29, in December 2017. Esfehani-Bahadori had just fled police from a car park building and was driving erratically in central Auckland – having run three red lights and reached speeds of up to 87km/h before slamming his Mercedes-Benz into Syed’s Toyota Prius on Symonds St.
He was on bail awaiting trial for those charges in November and December 2018 when authorities said he accompanied other gang members on several occasions to a New Lynn car dealership where large amounts of cash were taken and where at least 2.5kg of methamphetamine was picked up.
Police in Auckland, Canterbury and Southland executed search warrants at 17 addresses in August 2019, seizing 20kg of methamphetamine estimated to be worth $12 million, as well as high-end vehicles and over $500,000 cash, authorities said as Operation Maddale concluded.
Defence lawyer Tiffany Cooper said today that her client did not have the responsibility of carrying the drugs or cash himself or of storing them at his home.
“He was not trusted with the … responsibilities and not involved in any active way,” she said. “It’s almost as though, when we look at the footage of Mr Bahadori, he’s going along for the ride.
“His hierarchy within the gang at that time was certainly at a lower level.”
But prosecutor Jacob Barry said the defendant knew exactly what he was involved in, and what the consequences would be if he was caught.
“This is a man who wasn’t coerced,” he said. “He wasn’t naive. He wasn’t intimidated to join the gang.
“This is a joint enterprise. They all go in.”
Before announcing the sentence, Judge Muir noted a report in which Esfehani-Bahadori said he had allowed himself to be led astray from Islam prior to the fatal crash but since incarceration he has read the Koran every day. The judge also noted the death of his fiance shortly after he was sentenced for the fatal crash, as well as Esfehani-Bahadori’s assertion that he tries to speak with his mother every day.
His remorse seems genuine, the judge said, encouraging him to remember that he will be “spending time with your mother before too long” after his time is served.