A Southland man has failed in his bid to protect his house and Harley Davidson motorbike from being forfeited under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009.
A hearing in the High Court in Invercargill between the Commissioner of the New Zealand Police and Dirk Ladbrook was heard, and the judgement of Justice J Nation was that Ladbrook had failed to show undue hardship if the assets were forfeited.
“I am satisfied that Mr Ladbrook has unlawfully benefited from significant criminal activity and has an interest in the residential property and motorcycle over which forfeiture is sought. I accept the value of the benefit obtained from the significant criminal is, as the Police state, at $209, 025 and I set the maximum recoverable amount at that figure,” Justice Nation says.
Ladbrook was convicted of cultivating cannabis, selling a Class C drug, possession of a Class C drug, and theft, He pleaded guilty to those charges on June 22, 2014 and was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.
The summary of facts says a search of Ladbrook’s property came about after a police investigation, between December 2012 and November 2013, of members and associates of the Invercargill and Dunedin chapters of the Road Knights motorcyle gang.
The judgement says, “the investigation included the interception of voice calls, and on July 23, 2013, police intercepted a conversation between Ladbrook and Christian Dollman, the president of the Invercargill Road Knights. During that conversation, the two discussed a recently harvested crop of cannabis belonging to Ladbrook”.
On October 31, 2013, police searched Ladbrook’s house and found a sophisticated indoor growing operation in a number of vacant rooms inside the property. In the bathroom, 46 cannabis seedlings, in a spare bedroom, 21 maturing cannabis plants and in a spare bedroom were 19 cannabis plants in a vegetative state of growth.
The electronic meter at the property had been tampered with. There were wires hanging from it. In the summary, it was said this had been done so as “not to raise suspicions with the power company”.
Ladbrook, through his lawyer, stated he was no longer resisting seizure of the motorcycle but submitted the seizure of the bike should be taken into account with regard to whether the Commissioner should also be able to seize and sell the house property.
In seek relief due to undue hardship, Ladbrook gave evidence that the house, even though he is not living there, was important to him as a home and he wished to return there.
Ladbrook’s lawyer urged Justice Nation that for his client to hose his house as well as the bike would be severely disproportionate to the benefit which he obtained from his offending.
However, Justice Nation said: “I cannot accept that.”
“As reflected in his prison sentence, Ladbrook’s offending was serious. It was of significant financial value to him. As he acknowledged, he became involved in that offending and sought those benefits out of greed.”