The man arrested at the airport is awaiting trial. But his friend and former business partner, Eduardo Chavez Gonzalez, was last week jailed for 18 years for his role in the drug-importing syndicate, which Judge Jeanette Morrish described as well-organised and sophisticated.
Chavez Gonzalez, Judge Morrish said, ran an exporting business in his native Mexico and set up a business, C1 Superfoods, in Melbourne in 2017.
He used the first two shipments into Melbourne for C1 Superfoods as dry runs, the court heard, as hundreds of kilograms of coffee, cocoa powder and salsa were legitimately imported.
But the third shipment also contained bags of cocaine with a purity of up to 79 per cent and an estimated wholesale value of up to $72 million. The estimated street value, Judge Morrish said last Friday, was up to three times that figure.
“It is well understood that these substances have the potential to wreck the lives of those who use them and beyond,” she said in jailing the 36-year-old for 12 years before he is eligible for parole.
“They continue to present to a modern civilised society an increasing burden, both monstrous and intolerable.”
Chavez Gonzalez was tracked down through his association with the man arrested at the airport, and authorities learned it was he who arranged for the cocaine to be imported and stored at the logistics company. He travelled to Melbourne to oversee the shipment’s arrival and was arrested the day before he intended to fly out.
He was complicit in a syndicate that used considerable resources to import a “massive” quantity of cocaine, Judge Morrish said. The drugs would have “slipped through” had the sniffer dog not detected the comparatively small amount at the airport, the judge said.
Chavez Gonzalez was last year found guilty of importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug. The jury rejected his defence he legitimately wanted to establish C1 Superfoods and had no knowledge of the cocaine but was duped by clever criminals.
At a pre-sentence hearing this year, Chavez Gonzalez’s lawyers argued he didn’t know how much cocaine was to be shipped in. Prosecutors countered and argued he must have known it was at least a large shipment.
Judge Morrish found it was “inherently improbable” for someone to think importing two tonnes of cocoa powder and 750 kilograms of coffee was done to conceal a much smaller amount of cocaine. She found Chavez Gonzalez was a significant subcontractor in the operation and had a critical role.
Chavez Gonzalez, born and raised in the tourist city of Cancun, has served more than 1000 days since his arrest. The judge acknowledged his anxiety about the risk of contracting coronavirus in prison and for the welfare of his elderly parents in Mexico.
Adam Cooper joined The Age in 2011 after a decade with AAP. Email or tweet Adam with your news tips.