Ex-Warrior Manu Vatuvei can now be named as the sportsman facing a string of methamphetamine charges.
Former rugby league player Manu Vatuvei can now be named as the sportsman facing a string of methamphetamine charges.
The Warriors icon is charged with possessing methamphetamine for supply and importing the Class A drug.
He has denied the charges, which were laid in December 2019.
Just days before suppression was due to lapse, Vatuvei took to Instagram to tell his followers about the charges in a video.
Vatuvei has had a long fight to keep his identity a secret, but on Sunday revealed himself as the “sportsman” charged, 48 hours ahead of the deadline for him to take his fight to the Court of Appeal.
In an Instagram video, he said he “wanted to get something off his chest, something that’s been holding me down for a while now”.
He said: “In 2019 I was charged with importation, possession and supply of methamphetamine. All of these charges are accusations and I will be fighting my innocence for these charges.
“I know there’ll be a lot of questions … but I’ve been advised from my legal team that’s all I can talk about.”
Vatuvei asked for privacy for his family while he goes through this “battle”.
Auckland barrister Bradley Moyer confirmed he was acting as junior counsel for Vatuvei.
He confirmed the man in the video was his client and said Vatuvei’s comments were accurate. However, he declined to comment further because “the presumption of innocence applies”.
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.
The winger could be jailed for life if convicted of the alleged offending.
Vatuvei’s bid for name suppression was rejected by Judge David McIlraith in 2020 and then by Justice Rebecca Edwards at the High Court in April.
Justice Edwards gave him until 5pm on May 4 to appeal her decision.
Vatuvei retired from professional rugby league due to injury 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.
However, his employer noted at a court appearance in November that a loss of name suppression would cause it to “reconsider” the 35-year-old’s employment.
At the District Court, Vatuvei argued losing name suppression would cause him to miss out on media appearances and opportunities, despite not presenting any evidence to the court of future engagements.
In Judge McIlraith’s earlier decision, he said there was no evidence publication of Vatuvei’s name would affect his fair trial rights.
“The alleged offending in which Vatuvei is involved is serious. It involves the importation of signifiant amounts of methamphetamine into New Zealand.”
Judge McIlraith said while Vatuvei’s public profile meant there may be more publicity surrounding the charges, that did not amount to extreme hardship.
“There is nothing unusual about [the defendant’s] situation.”
Continued name suppression has continuously been opposed by Stuff.
Vatuvei was charged alongside two others. One faces two counts of importing methamphetamine, and one count of possession for supply. Another man is also facing charges.
The accused are set to go to trial later this year.
** This article was first published by Stuff.co.nz and was republished with permission.
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!