Matthew Aaron Rowland was stripped of his assets, except a Rolex watch, and gold chain and bracelet. (File photo)
A previously single-minded drug dealer, stripped of assets worth an estimated $1.75 million, has left prison promising to live a more “balanced lifestyle”.
Matthew Aaron Rowland, 30, imported about 17.3kg of the class C drug N-Ethylpentylone – sometimes called brown sugar – with a estimated street value of at least $1.75 million.
Rowland was sentenced to four years and six months’ jail in September 2018, and the Parole Board recently approved his release.
Late last year, the High Court in Wellington approved a settlement of police action to strip Rowland of the many assets he bought with his drug money.
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Rowland’s cryptocurrency investment was the first of its kind seized by the New Zealand police asset recovery unit. His real estate assets included four houses in the United Kingdom.
While he agreed he had to lose six houses, four cars, two Harley-Davidson motorbikes, and $712,000, his sentimental attachment to a Rolex watch, gold necklace and bracelet survived the police attempts to seize them.
Rowland was wearing the bracelet and necklace when he was caught, and the Rolex was at home. The jewellery was valued at about $24,000.
Rowland had nearly $2000 on him when he was arrested, plus $13,000 at his home in Aotea, Porirua. A further $250,000 was in a storage locker in Porirua, and another $155,000 was in a storage locker in Upper Hutt.
While he had just $3781.91 in a New Zealand bank account, he had £127,630.52 (about $258,500) spread among three UK bank accounts.
Together the cash and bank account totals added up to $712,000.
The Parole Board granted Rowland’s release recently at his first attempt to leave prison, after serving one-third of his sentence.
Rowland was said to have suffered a significant, but unspecified, health scare as a result of his substance abuse, the board said in its decision. He was now committed to abstinence.
Rowland had talked to the board about how he used to be obsessed with single goals, but now “understood and practiced the discipline of a balanced lifestyle”.
Rowland had a very limited criminal record, and had done a drug treatment programme and rehabilitation programme while in prison.
He had been a trusted worker inside prison with a job at the staff college, and arranged a strong support network for after his release.
The board said any risk to the safety of the community could be managed by parole conditions that included drug and alcohol testing.