An amnesty bin where people left excess cigarettes they could not bring into New Zealand was repeatedly raided by a French citizen employed as a cleaner at Queenstown International Airport.
Thirty-two-year-old Costa Le Coubet told police he thought the cigarettes “were going to be thrown out so it wasn’t such a big issue”.
That issue was big enough for guilty pleas to four theft charges by Le Coubet at an appearance in the Christchurch District Court today.
He was stopped by Customs at Christchurch Airport as he was about to fly home to France and has forfeited his $1000 air ticket, according to defence counsel Claire Hislop.
At Miss Hislop’s request, Judge Tony Couch did not record convictions on the theft charges because Le Coubet will argue at his sentencing on October 10 that he should be discharged without conviction.
She said he had a tourism degree and having four theft convictions on his record would seriously affect his ability to travel.
She also asked for name suppression, but Judge Couch said he could see no reason for it and refused to grant it. He believed the case was “probably a matter of some public interest”.
Miss Hislop said Le Coubet would try to obtain work in Christchurch during his remand on bail. He was in New Zealand on a working holiday visa which would expire in November.
Le Coubet says the police already have his passport, and the court imposed an additional bail condition that he not attempt to leave New Zealand.
Police said he was employed as a cleaner at Queenstown Airport.
He was responsible for cleaning the Customs controlled area and had a door pass into the secure areas.
On June 3, Le Coubet and an associate entered the secure area where the cigarette amnesty bin is located. It contains cigarettes that have been forfeited to the Crown by passengers who have exceeded their limit of 50 cigarettes being brought into New Zaland and don’t want to pay tax on the excess cigarettes.
The bin is tamper proof and secured with a combination lock and a slanting security flap.
Le Coubet and the associate reached into the bin and got some cigarettes out.
He returned to the bin 45min later and got more cigarettes, and did it again on June 5 and June 8.
On June 9, Customs officers noticed the bin had been tampered with and looked through security camera footage which showed Le Coubet taking the cigarettes.