A man who was on trial over his alleged role in a massive cocaine importation syndicate has voluntarily returned to Australia after five years overseas.
The 46-year-old allegedly fled during his trial in 2018.
He was one of 16 men charged over their alleged role in smuggling 186kg of cocaine into Australia in 2016 – the drugs worth an estimated $60m.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Victoria Police on Monday alleged the man used someone else’s passport to head overseas.
He allegedly spent time in Turkey, Greece and most recently was living in Bulgaria.
He arrived back in Melbourne on a flight from Doha on Saturday, where he was arrested on arrival by Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce officers.
He appeared in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday on seven charges, including four alleged breaches of the Australian Passports Act 2005, and his initial drugs charges.
Life in prison is the maximum penalty for anyone found guilty of attempting to import a border controlled drug charge.
AFP Detective Superintendent Jason McArthur said police were dedicated to bringing to justice anyone allegedly involved in the trafficking of illicit drugs, even if the crimes happened years ago.
“The seizure of the 186kg of cocaine in 2017 prevented those millions of dollars of drug profit from flowing back into a transnational criminal syndicate to fund other illegal ventures,” Detective Superintendent McArthur said.
“The AFP is also working closely with our law enforcement partners around the world to track down and bring to justice anyone (allegedly) involved in this harmful crime.”
Victoria Police Detective Superintendent Dave Cowan said it’s a warning to anyone who thought they could remain offshore while making illicit profits at the expense of the Australian community.
“We do not forget and we do not give up,” Mr Cowan said.
“Victoria Police will continue to work relentlessly with our partners to ensure anyone (allegedly) involved in this criminality is brought to justice no matter how much time has passed.”