71kg of cocaine in hydraulic oil drums were seized from a shipping container at the Mackay railway yards in May this year.
71kg of cocaine in hydraulic oil drums were seized from a shipping container at the Mackay railway yards in May this year. Contributed

Inside $20m drug bust

A COLOMBIAN national at the centre of a $20million cocaine bust was prepared to wear an electronic ankle bracelet with a GPS tracking device if he could live on bail in Mackay.

He was one of three Colombians living in Mackay who were arrested - along with businessman Markis Turner - in May this year and was charged following an 18-month international investigation.

There will be an allegation that the group was planning to make another importation in the future.

The amount of cocaine seized in hydraulic oil drums at the Mackay railway yards has now been determined to be 71kg.

The investigation includes statements from about 100 witnesses, records from 15 phones, evidence from 11,000 phone calls and police are still sifting through 200,000 emails.

Secret listening devices were used for up to 160 days and targeted a South Mackay residence/office and a Mackay-based car.

A total of 14 arrests have been made in Australia, Panama and Colombia.

Extra details about the biggest drug bust in Mackay history were revealed when barrister John Aberdeen, of Legal Aid Queensland, made a bail application for one of the accused, Juan Pablo Ocampo Alvarez, in court.

There were four elements to the prosecution case, Mr Aberdeen said, and they were the phone tape recordings, "captured conversations", emails, and surveillance.

Ocampo Alvarez should be granted bail because prison authorities would not allow him to use a computer to listen to the phone calls or watch surveillance tapes and prepare his defence, Mr Aberdeen said.

He was prepared to comply with strict bail conditions and wear an electronic ankle bracelet.

Australian Federal Police agent Justin Trembath testified that Ocampo Alvarez made admissions about the use of code words in phone calls and had admitted putting a Mackay businessman in contact with someone in Colombia and that he came to Australia to facilitate the importation.

Commonwealth prosecutor Aaron Guilfoyle opposed bail and said:

"He (Ocamp Alvarez) can prepare for his trial, it will simply take a lot longer than if he was on bail."

New claims

Magistrate Mark Morrow refused bail. All three Colombians are in custody.

The case against all four men was adjourned to a date in February.

Three Colombian suspects, who were living in Mackay, were under surveillance for six to eight weeks while they were in Sydney.

A secret recording at a South Mackay house contained a comment about "cocaine" and three of the four suspects were present at the time, say Federal Police.

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