‘I’ve been sick all day’: drug sting shock
HIGH-profile Australian racehorse owner Damion Flower will remain behind bars for at least a week after being charged over his alleged role in smuggling cocaine aboard commercial flights from South Africa.
Mr Flower, 47, and airport worker To Oto O Junior Mafiti were arrested on Wednesday after authorities uncovered an alleged trafficking ring operating at Sydney Airport.
Mr Mafiti, 50, is accused of using his airport access rights to collect the cocaine from baggage holds.
Mr Flower is one of two men police claim received the bags removed from the aircraft.
Both have been charged with six counts of importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.
Mr Flower owns horses with high-profile figures including broadcaster Alan Jones, advertising man John Singleton and rugby league legend Phil Gould.
Mr Gould - who co-owns racehorse Jailbreak with Mr Flower and his co-accused Mr Mafiti - told The Sydney Morning Herald he was stunned by the news.
"I just can't believe it. I am hoping it's not true," he said. "I've been sick all day."
Court documents alleged the offences happened at Mascot between January 22 and May 22.
Mr Flower did not apply for bail during a brief appearance at Liverpool Local Court on Thursday. He is expected to make a bid for release on May 29. His lawyer Chris Watson told reporters outside that his client intended to plead not guilty.
Mr Mafiti also declined to apply for bail in Central Local Court. Both matters have been adjourned to July 17.
Wednesday's arrests followed that of a 42-year-old man near Sydney Airport on April 15 as part of a long-running investigation by NSW and federal police, Australian Border Force and the federal Department of Home Affairs.
AFP officers allegedly found a black duffel bag containing vacuum-sealed packages wrapped in black and silver paper in his vehicle. They contained what is believed to be 27kg of cocaine
He has been charged with trafficking a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.
During the arrest of Mr Mafiti at Oran Park on Wednesday, police allegedly found him in possession of a bag containing about 28kg of a substance believed to be cocaine.
Mr Flower was later arrested outside his Moorebank home over "his alleged role in receiving imports of illegal drugs from the Oran Park man", authorities said in a joint statement on Thursday.
Police raided six properties in Hoxton Park, Moorebank and Revesby as well as at an Oran Park address. About $8 million in cash was found at one of the properties.
"This has been a complex, multi-layered investigation driven by the skills and expertise of intelligence analysts able to identify this offending to allow authorities to act," AFP Acting Superintendent Brad Edgtton said.
Border Force acting regional commander in NSW, Garry Low, said the men used their intimate knowledge of the aviation environment to carry out the operation but still weren't able to avoid detection.
The accused 42-year-old man is scheduled to appear in Central Local Court on June 12.
Mr Flower is an outright or part-owner of 50 horses, including one of Australia's most in-demand stallions, Snitzel.
He also holds a starting position in the $14 million The Everest, the richest turf race in the world.