Manukau Courier

Manu Vatuvei jailed for importingm­eth


Former rugby league star Manu Vatuvei has been sentenced to three years and seven months in jail for importing methamphet­amine.

Meanwhile, Vatuvei’s brother Lopini Mafi has been sentenced to seven years and two months behind bars for his involvemen­t as the New Zealand head of the ‘‘unsophisti­cated’’ drug ring.

The brothers appeared at south Auckland’s Manukau District Court onWednesda­y where Judge Jonathan Moses said the pair had contribute­d to the methamphet­amine problem in New Zealand and their actions needed to be denounced.

Judge Moses accepted Vatuvei became involved in the drug ring after a series of unfortunat­e life events.

‘‘Your fall from grace is a punishment in itself,’’ Judge Moses said. ‘‘Your final legacy in the community does not need to be defined from what happened today.’’

Vatuvei was once the pride of New Zealand rugby league, playing 226 games for the Warriors, 29 tests for the Kiwis and two more for Mate Ma’a Tonga.

But on Wednesday, the court heard Vatuvei was left in a dark place after his marriage breakdown and forced retirement from profession­al sport due to injuries.

Vatuvei’s lawyer, Vivienne Feyen, submitted the former league legend had suffered a ‘‘calamity of events’’ within 18 months after the loss of his career.

The guidance and support he’d had at the Warriors was no longer there and Vatuvei turned to alcohol and drugs to mask the difficulti­es in his life at the time, the court heard.

‘‘He was ill-equipped to make those fundamenta­l decisions,’’ Feyen said.

Vatuvei’s loyalty to his brother was also a factor which led to the offending.

Feyen submitted Vatuvei was a role model and was ‘‘genuinely and deeply remorseful’’ for his actions.

Crown prosecutor Jessica Pridgeon accepted Vatuvei had taken an enormous fall from grace, but said his and his brother’s offending was serious.

Vatuvei retired from profession­al rugby league in 2017, after a career spanning more than 13 years.

He went on to participat­e in a number of charity drives, including a Fight for Life boxing match.

He won Dancing With the Stars in 2019, then embarked on a new career in real estate.

Vatuvei was originally charged with importing methamphet­amine and possessing the drug for supply, and given name suppressio­n.

However, he went public over the charges in an Instagram video in May 2021, just days before his name suppressio­n was set to lapse.

In October of that year, he admitted a representa­tive charge of importing methamphet­amine. The other charges were withdrawn.

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