New Zealand Poker Champion Caught Smuggling Drugs, Faces Additional Charges

Poker Player’s Sentence Extended for More Drug Smuggling

A poker player from Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, who was imprisoned in 2018 for drug smuggling, has had his sentence increased due to additional drug smuggling activities. Shane Thompson, also known as Shane Tamihana, had previously made headlines for winning the main event at the Sky City Casino’s Festival of Poker in 2016.

However, his luck turned in 2017 when he was caught dealing meth. During a police raid of his home, they discovered 2.6kg of the drug and over NZ$170,000 (US$100,000) in cash. In 2018, Thompson was described by a judge as “the most comprehensive methamphetamine dealer Hawke’s Bay has ever seen” and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Thompson’s sentence was extended to 15 years after he was found guilty of orchestrating a small quantity of methamphetamine to be smuggled for another prisoner earlier this year. Judge Bridget Mackintosh at Napier District Court sentenced Thompson to an additional 23 months, to be added to his current term, for supplying methamphetamine, smuggling, and unauthorized possession of a cellphone. The illegal cellphone was used by Thompson to organize the drug delivery.

The judge dismissed Thompson’s lawyer’s argument that he had acted as a favor to the inmate and not for personal gain, stating that his actions undermine any rehabilitation programs in prison and prison discipline. Prosecutors had accused Thompson of being the leader of a criminal network that flooded the Hawke’s Bay region with $4.2 million worth of meth between 2016 and 2017. Assets worth millions were seized from Thompson and his second in command in 2018, and in 2022, further assets were confiscated despite Thompson’s attempt to hide them.

In May 2023, Thompson attempted to have his sentence reduced in New Zealand’s Supreme Court by arguing that the no-parole period attached to his sentence undermined the legal standard of granting discounts for guilty pleas, but his bid was unsuccessful.