High-profile Aussie racehorse owner in shock drug-trafficking arrest

Australian Associated Press
Damion Flower. Image: AAP
Damion Flower. Image: AAP

High-profile Australian racehorse owner Damion Flower will remain behind bars for at least a week after being charged over his alleged role in smuggling cocaine on commercial flights from South Africa.

The 47-year-old and a 50-year-old airport worker were arrested on Wednesday after authorities uncovered the alleged trafficking ring operating at Sydney Airport.

They allege the airport employee was using his airside access to collect the cocaine from the baggage holds of commercial flights.

Flower was one of two men police claim received the bags removed from the aircraft.

Both have been charged with six counts of importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.

Flower did not apply for bail during a brief mention at Liverpool Local Court on Thursday. He is expected to make a bid for release on May 29.

His lawyer Chris Watson told reporters outside his client intended pleading not guilty.

Damion Flower in 2005. (Photo by Fairfax Media/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)
Damion Flower in 2005. (Photo by Fairfax Media/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)

Wednesday's arrests followed that of a 42-year-old man near Sydney Airport on April 15 as part of a long-running investigation by NSW and federal police, Australian Border Force and the federal Department of Home Affairs.

AFP officers allegedly found a black duffel bag containing vacuum-sealed packages wrapped in black and silver paper in his vehicle, believed to be 27kg of cocaine.

He has been charged with trafficking a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.

During the arrest of the 50-year-old airport worker from Oran Park on Wednesday, police allegedly found him in possession of a bag containing about 28kg of a substance believed to be cocaine.

Flower was later arrested outside his Moorebank home "for his alleged role in receiving imports of illegal drugs from the Oran Park man", authorities said in a joint statement on Thursday.

‘Complex investigation’

Police also raided six properties in Oran Park, Hoxton Park, Moorebank and Revesby. About $8 million in cash was found at the Hoxton Park address, linked to the Oran Park man.

"This has been a complex, multi-layered investigation, driven by the skills and expertise of intelligence analysts who were able to identify this offending to allow authorities to act," AFP Detective Acting Superintendent Brad Edgtton said in a statement.

Border Force acting regional commander in NSW, Garry Low, said the men used their intimate knowledge of the aviation environment to carry out the smuggling operation.

"But (they) still weren't able to avoid our detention," he said in a statement.

The 50-year-old was expected to go before Central Local Court on Thursday while the 42-year-old man is scheduled to appear there on June 12.

Flower is an outright or part-owner of 50 horses, including one of Australia's most in-demand stallions, Snitzel.

He also holds a starting position in the $13 million The Everest, the richest turf race in the world.