Threats forced man into cocaine syndicate, court told

A MAN who was caught up in a multi-million dollar cocaine smuggling syndicate in Mackay claims he became involved because one of the ringleaders threatened to hurt his family, a court was told.

A sentencing hearing continued on Thursday for three Colombian men charged with conspiring to import and traffic cocaine following the discovery of about 71kg of the drug hidden in oil barrels at Mackay rail yards in 2011.

One of the men, Juan Pablo Ocampo Alvarez, 29, told the court one of the ringleaders had threatened to hurt his family in Colombia if he did not participate and act as a Spanish translator.

Mr Ocampo Alvarez sat in the witness stand at Brisbane Supreme Court on Thursday and told the court he had been threatened by another man.

The man is alleged to have worked closely with Mackay businessman and alleged drug syndicate leader Markis Scott Turner.

Mr Ocampo Alvarez said they were jogging on a beach near Mr Turner's house in Mackay when the man first threatened him.

"We used to hang around Markis's house… and on many occasions (the man) would remind me of what could happen to me or my family," he told the court, via a Spanish interpreter.

At one point he also returned to Colombia to marry his girlfriend "so that I could bring her over to prevent her from going through any sort of risk or danger."

Under cross examination, Mr Ocampo Alvarez was asked why he did not go to police after he had been threatened.

He said he took the threats seriously.

"(He) insisted that if I wanted to continue working legally in Australia I would have to do what he wanted me to do, which was as a translator. And if I didn't participate then my family would be in trouble."

The prosecution alleges Mr Ocampo Alvarez was an enthusiastic participant in the cocaine syndicate. But he maintained that he wanted to stay in Australia to get Australian citizenship.

Two other men, Alexis Giovany Gomez Ruiz, 35, and German Rendon Alvarez, 47 are also being sentenced for their involvement in the alleged drug syndicate.

It is believed the three men were involved in the elaborate scheme to hide the drug in oil and ship it to Australia, where the cocaine would then be extracted through a chemical process.

The sentence hearing has been adjourned until late March when it is believed barristers will make submissions before the final sentence is handed down. - APN NEWSDESK


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