A COLOMBIAN national who has pleaded guilty to being involved in a drug importation syndicate after millions of dollars worth of cocaine was discovered at Mackay has detailed the complicated process involved to hide the drugs in oil.
A sentence hearing continued yesterday at Brisbane for three men who had pleaded guilty to being involved in importing cocaine to Australia from South America.
One of the men, German Rendon Alvarez, 47, took the stand at Brisbane Supreme Court to clarify some facts and he gave evidence about the elaborate scheme to hide the cocaine in oil barrels.
Through a Spanish interpreter, he said the raw material was placed in four-litre containers with some oil before it was shipped from Colombia to Panama.
Mr Rendon Alvarez told the court that in Panama the small containers were then opened and transferred into another container with hydraulic oil and sealed before it journeyed across the sea to Australia.
Prosecutor Glen Rice said men involved in the importation had discussed ways to dissolve the drug so it would not show up on x-rays.
It is also alleged Mackay mining businessman Markis Scott Turner was the drug syndicate leader who used his mining business as a front to import the oil.
Along with Mr Rendon Alvarez, two other men - Alexis Giovany Gomez Ruiz, 35, and Juan Pablo Ocampo Alvarez, 29, - are being sentenced for their involvement in the alleged drug syndicate.
It is the prosecution's case that about 71kg of cocaine was discovered in the barrels when police discovered the drugs at Mackay rail yards, but Mr Rendon Alvarez disputed this on the witness stand.
He said he thought only about 8-12kg of cocaine was being imported in about 60 barrels.
Under cross examination, Mr Rendon Alvarez also disputed that the product he was importing was cocaine. He said it was raw material - a leaf extract - not the drug.
Mr Rendon Alvarez, who is being held at Rockhampton jail, also gave evidence about a back injury that stemmed from an incident when other prisoners attacked him in jail.
He said three discs had been damaged on his spine and that he needed medication to help him sleep.
"There have been times... where I've had to spend a full month in a wheelchair," he said through an interpreter.
The sentence proceedings started last year but was adjourned. It is expected the sentence hearing will continue on Thursday. - APN NEWSDESK
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