$154m cocaine shipment ‘bore stamps for crime gangs’
A massive shipment of cocaine which led to the arrest of former NRL star Jamil Hopoate was covered in special stamps', each identifying the different Australian drug cartels who were to divide up the 514 kg haul.
NSW Police are now investigating who the cocaine was intended for with Zackery Biady, one of the three people so far charged with supplying a large commercial quantity of drugs, known to have links to one of the world's most violent bikie groups, Satudarah.
Some of the cocaine allegedly intercepted at Sydney Airport had visible stamps such as CK, T3J, four leaf clovers, Bugatti and Calvin Klein.
Other bricks had codes written in black texta, each one identifying who was to receive the drugs.
Senior police said a consignment this size would have seen a number of cartels involved and now that it had been seized there would be a lot of angry suppliers in Sydney and other parts of the country.
Such a massive amount of cocaine is normally brought in by sea container, but information last week led NSW and federal authorities to believe the cocaine was to be brought in by air-cargo, with an estimated $20,000 freight bill.
Hopoate is charged with supplying a large commercial quantity of cocaine and using a vehicle to avoid apprehension.
He faced Central Local Court on Wednesday supported by his infamous father John and current NRL star brother Will, who offered up a $50,000 surety in a bid to secure his release.
But Magistrate Philip Stewart told the court he was concerned Hopoate would not show at his next court appearance.
The court heard Hopoate had checked on the truck in Botany about 10.50am on Tuesday before leaving with a backpack filled with fake cocaine - which police had earlier swapped with the real thing.
It is alleged he walked over to good friend Leanne Mafoa, 33, who was waiting in a nearby car before police approached the pair.
The court heard Hopoate "panicked" and yelled: "Drive, drive drive!" before Ms Mafoa sped off and almost hit one of the officers, causing them to jump out of the way.
He ran and threw the bag over a fence, before he was caught shortly after by police, the court heard.
The Daily Telegraph understands that it was less than a week ago the shipment was "'flagged'' to Australian officials as being suspect before being intercepted when it landed in Sydney from the United Kingdom on Saturday.
Australian Border Force officials searched a consignment of toolboxes and allegedly found the packets of white powder inside.
Unlike most drug importations, very little attempt had been made to hide them from officials.
A major covert operation involving NSW police, the NSW Crime Commission and Australian Federal Police was launched to substitute some of the drugs, but more importantly see who picked up the illicit cargo.
"To be honest we had no idea whose drugs they were or who was going to collect them," one investigator said.
"It was an operation totally done on the fly."
Hopoate allegedly jumped several fences in his efforts to avoid police, during which he injured his leg.
After his arrest he was taken to hospital but soon released and taken to Mascot Police Station and charged.
Mafoa, from Collaroy, was also charged with supplying a large commercial quantity of cocaine and also with using an offensive weapon in company to prevent detention.
The mother-of-one, who was also refused bail, has a criminal history including evading police causing a pursuit, driving recklessly and assault, the court was told.
Detective Chief Superintendent Darren Bennett said police did not know Hopoate was allegedly involved until he arrived on Tuesday morning.
"The investigation was intelligence driven, we didn't know the identity of the people who came to pick the consignment up until it happened," Det Supt Bennett said.
"We target certain intelligence based information, we did that on this occasion and we used our partners to do a search of the consignment."
Australian Federal Police Detective Superintendent Craig Bellis said the massive seizure was a sign of the determination of national and state police to work together to dent the ability of drug syndicates to import cocaine.
"Their efforts have stopped millions of dollars from going into the pockets of transnational crime syndicates and show that we won't make it easy for them to import and sell cocaine here in Australia," Det Supt Bellis said.
About 5pm on Tuesday detectives from Strike Force Coact also arrested Biady during a vehicle stop on Williamson Drive, Macquarie Fields.
Police allege he collected the consignment from Matraville and delivered it to Pagewood before leaving the area.
A search warrant was also executed at his home in Minto at the same time.
Biady appeared in Campbelltown Local Court via audio visual link from the Amber Laurel Correctional Centre in Sydney's west.
Three members of Biady's family supported him from the public gallery, blowing him kisses as he sat in the booth dressed in prison clothes.
He did not apply for bail and will return to make a release application at Central Local Court on May 27.
Hopoate's instructing solicitor Mahmoud Abbas told media outside court they would take steps to apply for bail for the pair in the Supreme Court.
The ousted NRL star and Mafoa are due to return to court on July 15.
Originally published as Hopoate charged over alleged role in 514kg cocaine import