Feb 1985: NZ quit the military alliance ANZUS - any relationship between this and the Rainbow Warrior is somewhat tenuous: New Zealand was revered by peaceniks during the mid-1980s for its anti-nuclear stance - even though the falling-out was over USA nuclear policy. The NZ government had complained about French nuclear testing on Mororoa and Fangataufa in 1974.
7 July 1985: Rainbow Warrior was resting up in NZ prior to attempting to penetrate a French exlusion zone. The terms of the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone, taken up later by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provide in part: "The coastal State may, without discrimination in form or in fact among foreign ships, suspend temporarily in specific areas of its territorial sea the innocent passage of foreign ships if such suspension is essential for its security, including weapons exercises." The Geneva Convention and UNCLOS provide that coastal states have a wide discretion as to the action they may take. France had been criticized for extending the "temporarily" [above] for a possibly unreasonable duration.
10 July 1985: Rainbow Warrior mined and sank at the Marsden Wharf. Fernando Pereira, a Portugese photographer who had fled Portugal to avoid conscription (avoiding military service was a crime at that time under Portuguese law) was drowned while returning to his cabin to get some photographic gear - he was not killed or injured directly by the explosions.
Commandant Alain Mafart and Capitaine Dominque Prieur, posing as a Swiss couple Turenge, arrested a few days later, pleaded guilty [some reports state "no contest"] to manslaughter and arson on 4 November 1985. The Solicitor General Mr Paul Neazor, Q.C., indicated to Judge Gilbert that the Crown was prepared to accept a plea on a lesser charge of manslaughter as, with the evidence available it could not be established that the accused were personally responsible for the placing of the explosive devices, nor that they intended anyone should be killed or injured.
France [too] quickly denied involvement (Mitterand), then admitted giving orders (PM Laurent Fabius, 22 September). Hernu, Minister of Defense, resigned. France made a public apology, paid the Portuguese family US$2.3 million and Greenpeace US$8.1 million damages, and paid the NZ government US$9 million for the relaese of the two French agents. Released to Hao Atoll for 3 years in July 1986; Prieur, pregnant, returned home to France 5 June 1987; Mafart returned in December 1987. There appears to be no documented evidence pointing to a "lamb importation" involvement. However, a little humour might be found in reading reports of the US tarif on NZ lamb in July 1999: "This is a more vicious blow against New Zealand than the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior." source: N.Z. Scoop [dead link]
23 September 1991, Gérald Andriès, a DGSE agent who had been implicated for giving the orders, was arrested under an international warrant in Switzerland, but NZ declined to extradite him and press charges. Jean-Michel Barcelo, Roland Verge Xavier and Christian Manquet were also implicated, but never charged, by NZ authorities after months of investigation which has generally been accepted as thorough.
Other speculation has come and gone over the years, but only Marfat and Prieur were actually prosecuted and found guilty. It can also be speculated that, without the bombing, Greenpeace would have achieved little or no publicity for that particular trip/mission.