MACKAY businessman Markis Turner was in custody last night – accused of being a major player in a $20 million cocaine drug importation gang.
Turner, who is the director of CQE Materials and Handling Pty Ltd at Paget, was in bare feet and wore a long-sleeved shirt rolled up to his elbows when he faced the Mackay Magistrate’s Court yesterday on 10 charges.
He was one of four Mackay men arrested by Australian Federal Police at the weekend following a two-year anti-drug operation by authorities in at least three countries.
The four men faced a total of 36 charges after cocaine was intercepted at the Mackay railway yards at the weekend. More than 50kg of cocaine was found hidden in 17 of 600 barrels of hydraulic oil, which were seized by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in Mackay on Friday night.
It will be alleged that drugs were in hydraulic oil drums, which were intercepted by authorities when they arrived by sea in Melbourne on May 10 and which were then ferried to Brisbane and then transported to Mackay by rail.
A total of 14 arrests have been made in Australia, Columbia and Panama.
Turner, 38, is the sole director of his company, which has about 10 office staff and about 70 people in the field.
His business began as a provider of electrical work in the mines, employing two people, but has grown substantially over the years.
Turner had his grounding as an electrician at the Racecourse Sugar Mill and then with ACE Conveyors, where he came to recognise the market for contract electrical services to the mines. Turner said in the Daily Mercury in November, 2007, that CQE had been established to deliver superior service and support to the mining and construction industries.
The three other men who faced court yesterday all said they had little understanding of English so a Spanish-speaking interpreter was used for their court appearances.
The men are all former residents of Columbia, South America, and each of them has lived in Mackay for about two years.
The charges for all of them were dated between January 2009 and May 26 this year. The charges included: Conspiracy to import and manufacture commercial quantities of border controlled drugs; attempting to possess the drugs; trafficking in commercial quantities of border controlled drugs.
Cathy Krieg, of McKay’s Solicitors, who appeared for Turner, said a bail application would be made today. He was remanded in custody overnight.
The three Spanish-speaking men were Alexis Giovany Gomez Ruiz, 42, German Rendon Alvarez, 30, and Juan Pablo Ocampo Alvarez, 24. They were represented by Antoinette Morton, of Morton lawyers, who also asked for a one-day adjournment so legal aid applications could be made.
Magistrate Ross Risson remanded all men in custody until this morning.
The wife of Juan Pablo Ocampo Alvarez was in court and tried to talk with her husband before he was taken away.
Several AFP officers were in court, including the team leader of the AFP Serious and Organised Crime Squad, Federal Agent Peter Bodel, who said Queensland police and especially state police in Mackay had played a vital role in closing down the operation late last week.
“We’ve received nothing but great co-operation and help from the Mackay police,” Federal Agent Bodel said.
It is believed Mackay police assisted in executing search warrants, in guarding potential crime scenes, in conducting scenes of crime examinations at several locations and providing essential facilities and services at the Sydney Street police station.
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