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Anonymous Drug Importing Billionaire Leaves Today

An American billionaire caught importing over 100 grams of cannabis is flying home today leaving controversy in his wake.

The man who flew into New Zealand to watch the America’s Cup race was caught by Customs with the drugs at Auckland airport last week.

He was later discharged without a conviction on condition that he make a donation to a drug rehabilitation centre and leave by today.

The light punishment dealt out to the billionaire, and the discharge without conviction, has raised concerns about apparent inconsistencies in New Zealand’s justice system. The widespread publication of the man’s name on the internet and in overseas newspapers has also led to questions about the appropriateness of the permanent name-suppression granted to the man.

The arguably “soft option” taken by the police and courts has also caused Ghislain Couston, a 19-year-old Frenchman convicted and deported for importing a far lesser amount of marijuana to question the fairness of New Zealand’s law.

In Parliament Minister of Justice Phil Goff has begun an inquiry into the consistency of the sentencing, and Customs Minister Phillida Bunkle says the man’s discharge without conviction could make prospective drug smugglers target New Zealand as an “easy beat”.

The New Zealand Herald newspaper has said that it will go the High Court if necessary to have the man’s name suppression lifted.

However progress on the legal front appears to be slow. A court hearing into the case at Otahuhu District Court has been stalled by technical arguments from the billionaire’s lawyer over whether the Herald is entitled to appeal the decision to grant name suppression.

A decision of sorts – only on the technical question of whether the Herald has standing to argue the case – is expected to be delivered tomorrow morning.

By then the billionaire drug importer will have left the country. Still, according to some reports, the man may be eligible to return if he applies for a visa.

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