Leading racehorse owner allegedly involved in airport crime
ONE of Australia's leading racehorse owners, Damion Flower, has been arrested over his alleged involvement in a criminal syndicate working out of Sydney Airport.
Mr Flower was taken into custody from his Moorebank premises as part of a joint investigation by the NSW Organised Crime Squad and Australian Federal Police into drug importation.
It resulted in the seizure of 27kg of what is believed to be drugs, and $8 million cash.
Mr Flower has been charged with importing a commercial quantity of prohibited drugs, which is believed to be cocaine.
An airport baggage handler To Oto O Junior Mafiti, 50, from Oran Park, was allegedly using his access at the airport to import cocaine through the baggage holds of commercial flights.
He appeared briefly via audiovisual link in Central Local Court on Thursday and did not apply
for bail. The case was adjourned to July 17.
A female supporter sobbed at the back of the courtroom during the brief hearing.
It is alleged that Flower, 47, and a third man, 42, received the bags once they were removed from the aircraft.
Flower was arrested for his alleged role in receiving imports of illegal drugs from Mafiti.
When police searched the 42-year-old's vehicle they allegedly uncovered a black duffel bag containing a number of vacuum-sealed packages, , believed to be cocaine, wrapped in black and silver paper.
He was charged with trafficking a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug and will face Sydney Central Local Court on June 12.
The total combined weight of the packages was 27kg. The exact weight, purity and value of the drugs will be determined following further forensic testing.
Investigators executed six search warrants on Wednesday night in the Sydney suburbs of Oran Park, Hoxton Park, Moorebank and Revesby.
About $8 million in cash seized at Hoxton Park was linked to the 50-year-old Oran Park man.
AFP Detective Acting Superintendent Brad Edgtton praised the investigation.
"This has been a complex, multi-layered investigation, driven by the skills and expertise of intelligence analysts who were able to identify this offending to allow authorities to act," he said.
"These arrests demonstrate trusted insiders who are allegedly willing to abuse that position of trust are on our radar."
Flower's arrest will rock Sydney and Australian thoroughbred racing. He is a high-profile identity who has shares in more than 50 horses trained by Brad Widdup out of Platinum Park at Hawkesbury.
Flower first came to prominence as the owner of the outstanding sprinter Snitzel, who won seven races including the Group 1 OakIeigh Plate in 2005 and earned more than $1 million in prize money.
But Snitzel has achieved even greater fame as a stallion and is about to win his third successive Australian Sires Premiership.
Flower retained shares in Snitzel at stud and races a number of the sire's progeny.
Flower also holds a slot in $14 million The Everest, the world's richest turf race that is run at Royal Randwick on October 19.
He paid $1.8 million to buy a slot (starting position) in the big race for three years.