Mokbel informer fears for his life.
Gary Hughes | December 30, 2008.
A FORMER underworld supergrass who allegedly headed an international cocaine trafficking syndicate spanning three countries has told a court he fears for his life after being extradited from The Netherlands.
The 41-year-old man, whose identity has been suppressed, appeared briefly in Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday, standing behind a protective glass screen and flanked by security staff.
The supergrass, who informed on accused gangland murderer Tony Mokbel and corrupt Victorian drug squad detectives before leaving Australia in 2004, was arrested in The Netherlands 12 months ago.
During a lengthy legal battle against extradition to Australia earlier this year, the man told a Dutch court his life was at riskfrom corrupt police he helped expose and his former cocaine clients.
The man, who has allegedly boasted in the past about supplying millions of dollars of cocaine to television personalities and other celebrities, lost his extradition battle and was flown to Australia on December 26.
Yesterday, the man, who appeared without a lawyer to represent him, told Victoria’s Chief Magistrate Ian Gray a threat had been made against his life and asked that his identity be kept a secret.
“The biased reporting that has occurred in the past has endangered my safety and that of my family,” the supergrass said.
He also complained about amedia artist sketching him incourt and later pulled his shirtover his head to block the artist’s view.
Mr Gray remanded him in custody on two drug importation charges and granted a temporary suppression order of his name until January 8, when the man’s lawyer would be available.
Australian Federal Police allege the man headed an international drug trafficking syndicate operating between The Netherlands, Canada and Australia. He was arrested in December last year by Dutch police as he was about to board a flight from Amsterdam to Thailand, after warrants were issued for him in three countries.
He was held in maximum security in jail awaiting extradition and was escorted by Victorian detectives and AFP officers on his flight back to Australia.
In his role as an underworld supergrass, the man provided information that was instrumental in the decision to disband the Victoria Police drug squad in 2001, after corrupt detectives were found to be trafficking in precursor chemicals.
He also secretly taped Mr Mokbel, an accused murderer, on several occasions during a previous police investigation and boasted of being a regular guest at lavish parties attended by Melbourne’s glitterati.
In a secretly recorded conversation, he chatted to Mr Mokbel about dating a female Melbourne television personality.
The syndicate he allegedly headed used a large number of mules to smuggle cocaine into Australia and Canada by having them swallow small packages of the drug, according to police.
A number of the mules were arrested trying to enter Australia.
AFP assistant commissioner Tim Morris said in a statement yesterday the man’s successful extradition from The Netherlands was the culmination of a two-year operation that led to 12 arrests in Australia and overseas.
He praised investigators in Australia, The Netherlands, Thailand and Canada for their commitment during the lengthy trans-national operation.
“The syndicate targets people who are vulnerable, either financially or because of their own drug dependency, to participate in the extremely risky and dangerous method of swallowing drug parcels for concealment from authorities,” Mr Morris said.