A MEMBER of an international criminal syndicate that imported 700 kilograms of cocaine into Lake Macquarie in 2017 has failed in his bid to have his jail term reduced, with the Court of Criminal Appeal rejecting claims that his role in the operation had been overstated and mischaracterised.
Since his arrest in Newcastle and the seizure of 700 bricks of cocaine packed into the hulls of a 13-metre catamaran moored at Toronto, there have been many labels attached to the man's involvement in the syndicate: "middle-manager", a "low-end facilitator with no authority", and the "Australian principle organiser".
But the Court of Criminal Appeal on Friday found that the judge who jailed him last year had made no error when characterising the syndicate member's role in the failed operation.
"The [syndicate member] chose the persons who were to work on the importation and, in doing so, chose them on the basis of their trustworthiness to him, their robust characters and... their sailing skills," Justice Stephen Rothman said as part of a judgment delivered in the Court of Criminal Appeal on Friday. "He dealt with the principals overseas; took possession of the drugs; handled the money on behalf of the syndicate; determined the amount that would be paid to his co-offenders in Australia; and was responsible for holding $12 million for his principals, in relation to the first amount of drugs and holding the 300 kilograms of drugs for what would become a second sale. "There can be little doubt, in my mind, that the characterisation by the learned sentencing judge was open to him and correct, if not understated. "Whether that characterisation is given the label the principal in Australia or middle management of the entire syndicate is of little consequence in determining the actual role played by the [syndicate member] in this importation."
The man, who cannot be identified because he gave evidence against Newcastle man Craig Lembke, who sailed the cocaine from Tahiti to Toronto, was jailed last year for a maximum of 19 years and six months, with a non-parole period of 12 years and six months, a sentence massively discounted due to his cooperation and guilty plea.
He lodged an appeal against the severity of the sentence and as well as claiming his role had been mischaracterised, the syndicate member argued the sentence was "manifestly excessive" and "crushing" for a man of his advanced age.
Again, the CCA rejected that ground of appeal, with Justice Rothman saying: "The [syndicate member], at 63 years of age, took the decision to become involved in an extremely serious offence."
The [syndicate member], at 63 years of age, took the decision to become involved in an extremely serious offence.The Court of Criminal Appeal said on Friday.