Men front court over $60m 'mothership' drug haul
Victoria : Four alleged members of a crime syndicate behind a plan to import $60 million worth of cocaine and arrested on Wednesday morning have faced court.
The men are accused of masterminding a scheme to import 186 kilograms of cocaine using a former Japanese whaling vessel, which was boarded by authorities last month despite never entering Australian waters.
The drug was allegedly wrapped in bricks weighing about one kilogram and packed into nine hessian sacks which were found in a small storage room on the boat.
Police say the syndicate, based in Melbourne's north-western suburbs, was monitored for about a year before the boat was intercepted about 1300 kilometres off the coast of Tasmania on December 12.
Authorities then spent another five weeks investigating the group before arresting six Victorian men, four in Melbourne and two in Queensland early on Wednesday.
Four men made brief appearances at Melbourne Magistrates' Court late on Wednesday afternoon.
Omer Tok, 39, Youssif Tawfik, 25, Christopher Peroulis, 46, and Mohamed Kaddour, 47, were remanded in custody to reappear in court on May 10.
It's understood two other men, extradited from Queensland on Wednesday, will face court in out of sessions hearings on Wednesday evening or Melbourne Magistrates' Court on Thursday morning.
The lawyers for the Melbourne men outnumbered their supporters, with a man and a woman, who gave a muffled sob as the first of the men came into court from the docks.
Three of the four men asked for special treatment in court because of medical complaints, but none applied for bail.
Magistrate Ann Collins released the men's names and ages, but agreed with a request from the men's lawyers not to release the men's addresses, including their suburbs.
All are charged with attempting to import a commercial quantity of cocaine.
The court was told police wanted more time than usual to put together a brief of evidence against the men, as they would need to analyse vast amounts of drugs, and other evidence, collected in the raids.
Lawyer Emma Turnbull, appearing for two of the men, said it was Mr Tok's first time in custody, and he had a pre-existing back injury for which he would need medial attention.
She said Mr Kaddour had an infection in his leg from recent surgery that had become suppurated, and for which he would need medical help.
The court was told Mr Perulous had diabetes and a heart condition.
Ten men on board the Japanese whaling boat when it was intercepted in December — nine Chinese and a Singaporean — have already been charged with attempting to import a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.
The syndicate allegedly tried to use an increasingly common method for drug importation, known as the "mothership" method where a ship importing drugs from overseas loiters off the coast before being met by a smaller boat which brings the drugs to shore.