Man ‘just a pawn' in ex-racing king’s alleged cocaine ring

 

An airline baggage handler accused of helping Sydney horseracing identity Damion Flower smuggle cocaine into the country has been denied bail over an alleged 45 shipments of cocaine.

Police allege baggage handler To Oto O Junior Mafiti helped Damion Flower by collecting drugs aboard flights from South Africa to Sydney some 45 times between 2016 and 2019.

The pair was arrested in May and Mafiti was denied bail when he fronted the NSW Supreme Court on Wednesday via video link from prison.

Police allege To Oto O Junior Mafiti helped Damion Flower with 45 cocaine shipments. Picture: Facebook
Police allege To Oto O Junior Mafiti helped Damion Flower with 45 cocaine shipments. Picture: Facebook


Mafiti's lawyer said police facts allege Flower was calling the shots in the "largely unsophisticated operation."

"My client is obviously a subordinate person to Mr Flower," defence barrister Michael Finnane QC said.

"My client, notwithstanding the strength of the crown case, intendeds to plead not guilty."

Mafiti and Flower both face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted of a string of charges including commercial drug importation.

Damion Flower at the Magic Millions horse sales. Picture:by Luke Marsden
Damion Flower at the Magic Millions horse sales. Picture:by Luke Marsden

Mafiti had a huge group of supporters in court, with two friends' homes worth $1.8 million offered up as a bail surety.

The 51-year-old also offered to wear an electronic monitoring anklet, but said money to pay for it would need to be taken from the $6 million in cash seized when federal police raided Mafiti's properties.

Crown prosecutor Chelsea Brain argued the Samoa-born man was a major flight risk with "extensive connections at Sydney Airport."

Justice Mark Lerace SC refused bail, saying the very real prospect Mafiti will spend a long stint in jail provides a "strong motive" for him to flee the country or not attend court.

Australian Federal Police seized approximately $8 million in cash from a Hoxton Park property following Flower’s arrest. Picture: NSW Police
Australian Federal Police seized approximately $8 million in cash from a Hoxton Park property following Flower’s arrest. Picture: NSW Police

He said the Hinchinbrook man's partner has been hospitalised twice for depression and anxiety since Mafiti was locked up.

According to Mafiti's girlfriend's affidavit the couple usually spent two nights a week together, but when Ms Brain suggested that didn't prove they were in a dependant de facto relationship the woman yelled out: "What?! That's not true!"

Justice Lerace said Mafiti's partner felt his emotional and financial support "would help her endure her mental health issues" but said regrettably he could not be released.

Flower with Golden Slipper favourite Snitzel in 2005. Picture: James Croucher
Flower with Golden Slipper favourite Snitzel in 2005. Picture: James Croucher

The Crown alleges the former turf king and Mafiti used "crude and obvious" coded text messages relating to rugby scores and the weight of a "jockey" to co-ordinate drug deliveries.

Flower, a 47-year-old father-of-two, was denied bail for a second time last month.

Their co-accused Ashoor Youkhana, who was allegedly arrested near Sydney Airport with 24 kilograms of coke in his car, was granted $1 million bail last year.

The 42-year-old Middleton Grange father was charged with commercial drug possession and dealing with the proceeds of crime.

Mafiti was arrested at Sydney International Airport. Picture: NSW Police
Mafiti was arrested at Sydney International Airport. Picture: NSW Police

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