When crooked cop Peter Pakau overheard a colleague talking about a black, 2006 Chrysler 300c that had been reported stolen and had turned up at an auto electrician's shop in West Auckland, he hatched a plan that is still causing his former bosses legal nightmares.
Police files that trace the whole sordid saga make for comical reading.
The Chrysler was originally owned by Oscar Chand, a drug runner who was described in court as the "mastermind" of a bungled attempt to smuggle $40,000 of pure methamphetamine from Auckland to New Plymouth in 2012. He used his daughters, one of whom gave birth the same day she was arrested at gunpoint, as mules.
The Chrysler, said to be worth $30,000, was registered in the name of Chand's then-girlfriend, Danielle Cooke, who was using it.
In June 2012, Cooke reported the car had been stolen, and was being driven around by a Head Hunter gangster, the police files show.
Some time over the next three months, the Chrysler was recovered, but police weren't notified.
In September, it turned up at an auto electrician's for repair. The electrician checked and found it was reported stolen, and called police.
Pakau overheard the constable who took the call discussing the vehicle. According to the reports, he located the file and arranged for a criminal associate, Melissa Brown, to collect the Chrysler. They would sell it, and split the profit.
Pakau called the electrician, the files say, telling him he was a police officer, the car was now owned by Brown and he could release it to her.
Brown paid the $1100 repair bill, and took the car.
In March the following year, she sold it for $19,500.
Later that day, the buyer sold it to a car dealer for $20,500. The dealer later sold it to a private buyer in the South Island for $29,000 and it has since been sold again, to a Nelson woman.
In March 2013, Chand advised police what Pakau and Brown had done - but at that point the car wasn't re-recorded as stolen.
By this stage, police had begun surveillance on Pakau and 10 associates. Last November he was jailed for eight years for corruption, supplying methamphetamine, accepting bribes and stealing the car. Brown went down for five years, six months.
The saga might have ended there - but Cooke came forward and said: "I want my car back."
At first, police indicated that was the fair outcome. Although the original owners had a "dubious criminal history", wrote a detective senior sergeant in an email, "assuming they originally had legitimate title to the vehicle and it was stolen from them, then they still have title."
He recommended police get a warrant and seize the Chrysler. The current owner could seek recourse through the LMVD and the dealer could take civil action against the first purchaser.
A detective sergeant said she didn't know how Chand came into possession of the car, "although it is likely that it is a result of some sort of standover or drug deal".
The police legal section was asked for advice. A solicitor wrote that although it appeared Chand and Cooke had title, recovering the vehicle could cause "difficulties" for police because they hadn't "alerted the world" that the car was stolen when they became aware Pakau had taken it.
"Therefore anyone who purchased the vehicle may name police as a party to civil proceedings."
He was even worried that Pakau and Brown might take civil action, citing "officially induced error", when someone relies upon a direction or authority of a government official (that is, Pakau) which turns out to be unlawful.
It was decided to visit Chand in Rolleston prison, where he was serving time for his drug dealing, and see if he would be prepared to accept "reparation" instead of the Chrysler.
It might go down as the first time in history that a criminal turned down the offer of money from the police.
The constable who arrived in the Kowhai unit in August last year got a frosty reception.
He recorded the conversation in a memo.
Chand: "I don't want anything to do with that car. The cops up there ... are laughing about this. They're the reason the situation is like it is."
Constable: "But ... would you be happy with reparation?"
Chand: "I told you I don't want anything to do with that car. I don't need the aggravation. I don't want anything to do with the Henderson cops, they're gangsters, the lot of them."
Constable: "Well, one of them might've been but that doesn't mean they all are."
Chand: "Yes they are, the whole gang, they're corrupt. I'm having nothing to do with them. Now if you can get out of my way, I want to go back to my cell."
Since then, police have backtracked and are now refusing to take action unless Cooke can prove she is the owner. The Independent Police Conduct Authority has declined to intervene.
In an interview, police Inspector Edward Carr said police now had a signed statement from the man who paid for the car (Chand), "and despite having been registered to several different associates for short periods, he is considered to be the true owner".
That man had advised he did not wish to make any claim on the vehicle. Carr indicated Cooke had only had the car in her name for 22 days.
"Police have invited the woman to substantiate her claim of ownership by providing proof of this. To date, this has not occurred."
Cooke, who's no longer with Chand, says she had possession of the Chrysler and was the registered owner when it was stolen, but she doesn't have a sales and purchase agreement or a receipt.
She believes it raises serious questions about police procedure relating to stolen vehicles and intends to begin legal proceedings against police next month.
Wairarapa Police have been operating a similar racket for years involving motor vehicles, and assisting corrupt local SPCA officials to steal horses in a similar racket. They are currently refusing to investigate claims made by the owner of a Hillman Minx by simply refusing to interview the witnesses to the sale of the vehicle - because the seller was none other than corrupt EX Constable Gallagher's wife's brother - a recidivist offender who Police protect because not only is he related to Gallagher but Constable Peter Cunningham has been having it off with the seller's mother for years, as well as shacking up with his own son's wife's mother in recent years in continuation of the long standing incestuous manner in which the Wairarapa operates. This website has been publishing those allegations for years and all Gallagher and Cunningham have done is instigate a number of unsuccessful criminal prosecutions - they don't dare challenge the veracity of the claims though, because the evidence is indisputable.