Members of an international drug syndicate were yesterday sentenced in the Brisbane Supreme Court to lengthy prison sentences for conspiring with each other to import and traffic a commercial quantity of a bordered controlled drug—cocaine.
Columbian nationals, Juan Pablo Ocampo Alvarez and Alexis Giovany Gomez Ruiz, and German Rendon Alvarez were sentenced to 22 years, 14 years and 18 years respectively for their roles in the plot.
The alleged mastermind behind the criminal enterprise, Markis Scott Turner, failed to appear before the court. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.
The investigation into the drug syndicates activities began in October 2009 after the group developed a plan and subsequently imported into Australia 71.6kg of cocaine concealed in a liquid, in drums labelled as hydraulic fluid.
Turner, the sole owner of CQE Materials and Handling (CQE), a company that performed work in the mining industry in the Mackay region in North Queensland, allegedly recruited his co-conspirators Juan Pablo Ocampo Alvarez and Juan Martin Jaramillo Maya who were employed at CQE. They quickly became participants in the plan, agreeing to share profits and make decisions jointly. When not working, they spent time making contact with people in Columbia and elsewhere in South America to progress their plans to import cocaine. Ultimately, a plan was hatched to conceal the drugs in a liquid. German Rendon Alvarez and Alexis Giovanny Gomez Ruiz joined the group, and were involved in planning for an extraction process in preparation for the drug shipment.
In May 2011, after a number of shipments were delayed, the cocaine arrived in Brisbane by ship, via Sydney and Melbourne. On arrival in Melbourne members of the Australian Federal Police deconstructed the container and located the drums containing cocaine. After tests confirmed the presence of cocaine, the shipment was reconstructed before being on-forwarded to Brisbane and Mackay.
On 27 May 2011, just prior to the shipment being collected, the group was arrested by members of the Australian Federal Police. The container was seized in Mackay. It contained 600 drums of hydraulic fluid and grease. Subsequent tests revealed that 17 drums of hydraulic fluid contained cocaine suspended in a liquid. In total, not less than 71.6kg of cocaine was contained within the 17 drums.
Australian Federal Police had been monitoring the activities of this syndicate during the course of this investigation. Police intercepted hundreds of conversations between the defendants and their South American contacts and between the defendants and the proposed purchasers in Australia.
CDPP Deputy Director, Scott Bruckard, said, ‘The sentences imposed on the three men in this case clearly demonstrate the serious nature of their of their offending—a sophisticated international narcotics operation that was all intended to make significant profits from the production and distribution of illicit drugs in Australia’.
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Each defendant pleaded guilty to the following charges:
One count of conspiring with each other and with others to import a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs (cocaine), pursuant to s.11.5(1) and s.307.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).
One count of conspiring with each other to traffic a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, namely cocaine, for a commercial purpose, pursuant to s.11.5(1) and s.302.2(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).
- Ocampo Alavrez has been sentenced to 22 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 14 years and 8 Months. 1788 days declared as pre-sentence custody. Sentences to be served concurrently.
- Rendon Alvarez has received 18 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 10 years. 1788 days declared as pre-sentence custody. Sentences to be served concurrently.
- Gomez Ruiz has been imprisoned for 14 years with a non-parole period of 9 years and 4 months. 1788 days declared as pre-sentence custody. Sentences to be served concurrently.