High-profile racehorse owner Damion Flower used coded messages about sport to let a baggage handler know where to find bags of cocaine coming into Sydney Airport, a court has been told.
The man best-known for his stake in Australia’s most in-demand stallion Snitzel applied for bail on Wednesday as he battles six charges of commercial drug importation.
Prosecutors allege the former baggage handler used his connections at the airport to help smuggle cocaine in on commercial flights from South Africa.
Crown prosecutor Stacey Hatch said the 47-year-old used a phone that was falsely subscribed, not activated regularly and solely used to communicate with a co-accused on the days and at the times of the alleged importations.
Police claim airport worker To Oto O Junior Mafiti, 50, used his airside access to collect the cocaine from baggage holds before Flower and another man received them.
While prosecutors are tying Flower’s involvement to the first four importations based on his physical proximity to the airport and other factors, Ms Hatch said the fifth and sixth allegations were “very strong circumstantial” cases.
Flower allegedly referred to “checking the weight of the jockey” in one message.
In another, Ms Hatch said he referenced a rugby team and three digits which were later found to match numbers on a container from where a bag of cocaine was removed.
“He is directing those actions,” she told Central Local Court.
“The roles he undertakes in (those instances) is more akin to a principal by giving instructions.”
In opposing his release, Ms Hatch said the prospect of life sentences for each charge presented significant motivation to flee the country and Flower had significant criminal associates to enable such a move.
Flower’s lawyer argued prosecutors hadn’t established he owned the phone in question and the case at most suggested the prominent owner might have had some knowledge “about something happening”.
“There is nothing Flower is shown to have done to have arranged the physical (smuggling) into Australia or the dissemination (of those packages),” Chris Watson told the court.
Mr Watson told the court Flower would likely not be on trial before mid-2020 and there was a “real and urgent need” for his release so he could address business matters concerning “extremely valuable racehorses” that simply couldn’t be done in custody.
Flower’s former wife Camilla and his family members have offered property worth more than $3 million as security.
“He has every reason to adhere to bail and very stringent bail conditions,” Mr Watson said.
Ms Hatch said there was no reason Flower couldn’t appoint someone to make business decisions on his behalf while he was in custody.
Flower rose to prominence in racing with Group One-winning horse Snitzel, who is now Australia’s champion stallion, commanding about $40 million a year in service fees.
He has since established a multi-million dollar training facility in Sydney’s northwest, owns stakes in dozens of racehorses and has a starting position in Australia’s richest horse race The Everest.
Magistrate Robert Williams reserved his bail decision until Thursday afternoon.