SAILOR and musician Craig Lembke and two members of a drug importation syndicate were sitting in a holding cell when the TV news came on.
It was November 15, 2017, and the trio had just been arrested in sweeping raids across Lake Macquarie and Newcastle, the drug importation plot they were accused of facilitating foiled by police who had for months been watching their every move and listening to their every conversation.
And then as they sat in the cell - Mr Lembke and the two drug syndicate members, who cannot be identified - on the screen was a report about police making arrests and seizing 700 kilograms of cocaine.
"What the hell, [syndicate member's name]," an angry Mr Lembke said to his alleged co-conspirator at the mention of the drugs.
The drug syndicate member, who the jury heard on Wednesday was jailed for more than 19 years for his role in the plot, gave evidence for a fourth day, admitting that Mr Lembke was angry at him when he heard the details of the importation on the news report.
Whether or not Mr Lembke knew about the drugs on board is the key issue during his trial in Newcastle District Court, as is the question of when he knew he was to be paid $500,000 for sailing the 13-metre Skarabej from Tahiti to Lake Macquarie.
The syndicate member was asked by Crown prosecutor Rob Ranken whether he ever told Mr Lembke there were drugs on board the catamaran.
"I don't think so," the syndicate member replied. "I was told not to tell him anything because it was a security reason and if he was a cocaine user he might have stolen some."
I am suggesting you have lied and you have put Craig Lembke in it in order to save your own skin.Public Defender Peter Krisenthal.
The syndicate member said he did not think Mr Lembke had ever asked him if there were drugs on board the catamaran.
Under cross-examination from Public Defender Peter Krisenthal, for Mr Lembke, the syndicate member admitted that after being arrested he realised the police case against him was strong and that he was told another syndicate member was co-operating with the authorities.
The syndicate member acknowledged he agreed to co-operate as well in order to get a reduced sentence, ultimately getting 39 months shaved off his jail term.
Mr Krisenthal suggested to the syndicate member that he knew Mr Lembke's defence was that he didn't know about the drugs on board and that the syndicate member lied in his statement to provide as much "assistance" as possible.
"I suggest you have deliberately tailored what you told the police in order to maximise the benefit that you could get," Mr Krisenthal said.
"I am suggesting you have lied and you have put Craig Lembke in it in order to save your own skin."
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