Cocaine case takes time
AN INVESTIGATION into a $20 million cocaine syndicate, which allegedly involves Mackay businessman Markis Turner, includes two years of telephone intercepts.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) also are sifting through the records of about 15 phones, are checking 15,000 to 16,000 phone calls and are still to examine up to 200,000 emails, mostly in Spanish.
Statements from 85 witnesses have already been provided to defence lawyers and another 15 statements will be available in the next week.
Details of the progress of the investigation into the alleged $20 million drug bust in Mackay were provided in the Mackay Magistrate's Court yesterday afternoon.
Despite all the material already being provided, the AFP are yet to particularise the allegations against the four men charged in May this year after drums of hydraulic oil, allegedly imported from South America, were seized at the Mackay railway yards.
The massive volume of material being given to the defence lawyers prompted leading Mackay barrister John Aberdeen to tell the court: "It's almost as if we're being buried under the material as a tactic by the prosecution".
"It could take months to go through all of the material with our client."
Mackay businessman Markis Turner, 38, and three Colombian nationals, were arrested in Mackay in May. They face a total of 36 charges including importing cocaine worth $20 million. At that time the AFP alleged 50kg of cocaine was found hidden in 17 barrels of hydraulic oil imported from South America.
The AFP also announced that a total of 14 people had been arrested in Australia, Colombia and Panama.
Markis Turner is on bail with strict conditions, including sureties totalling an estimated $450,000.
However, the three Colombian nationals have been kept in custody since their arrest.
Mr Aberdeen, who represents one of the Colombians, said: "My client is a Colombian national and he was living in Mackay with his wife, on a sponsored work visa. He has limited assets. After being in custody for six months, we should be able to get some idea of what the case is against our client."
Mr Aberdeen said he had only held two one-hour conferences with his client and that was not enough and a Spanish interpreter would be needed.
"It could take two to three weeks of face-to-face interviews with him to put all the allegations to him and get instructions," he said.
Magistrate Mark Morrow said if the AFP did not provide details of their allegations within one month he would set a schedule that would make them comply.