Man 'drove to Qld to pick up drugs that never arrived'
It was likened to a Hollywood movie script.
In July 2020, a plane bound for Queensland was loaded with more than 400kg of pure cocaine at a remote Papua New Guinea air strip.
The operation was allegedly run by a consortium consisting of a Colombian syndicate and Melbourne mafia identities, a Brisbane Supreme Court jury was told.
The plane carrying the cocaine was then set to fly to Mareeba in far north Queensland however, it crashed as it tried to take off in PNG.
Osman El-Houli, 35, has been accused of driving a truck from Melbourne to collect the drugs that never arrived before he was intercepted by police near Mareeba.
"You will hear effectively a lot of evidence which you may well in fact think could well be the script of some American movie," defence barrister Tony Kimmins told the jury on Monday.
The Crown said "conspirators" had come up with the plan to load the plane with cocaine in PNG and fly it into Mareeba, near Cairns, in 2020.
Mr Kimmins told the court the conspirators thought it was a "really good idea" after successfully flying cocaine from PNG to Mareeba in 2018.
The Crown said the plane was flown from Mareeba to PNG and was loaded with a 548.6kg "substance", only to crash 20 minutes later when it tried to take off in July 2020.
"The substance contained cocaine originating from Colombia with a pure weight of 404.1kg," crown prosecutor Daniel Caruana told the jury.
The plane's cargo was hidden in nearby mangroves before it was found days later by PNG police, the crown said.
The same day the plane crashed, El-Houli was intercepted by police after the truck was found parked near Mareeba.
The truck was carrying stacks of plasterboard that had holes cut inside them, Mr Caruana said.
El-Houli told police he had been hired by someone called "The Professor" and initially been told he would be paid $10,000 to drive from Melbourne and drop off plasterboard in Queensland, the court was told.
However, he said en route he was told that instead, he would pick up "bags of cash".
In a police interview, El-Houli said he "didn't believe he was doing anything wrong" and had been told there were no drugs involved with the job, the court was told.
The crown said there was no evidence El-Houli knew about the holes cut in the plasterboard stacks prior to leaving Melbourne.
Police also found an encrypted mobile phone in the truck, the court was told.
"Ultimately the crown case is that Mr El-Houli was embarking on this journey ... with the intention of collecting a substance that was cocaine and he was at least reckless as to the fact that what he was to collect was going to be a border controlled drug," Mr Caruana said.
El-Houli has pleaded not guilty to attempting to possess an unlawfully imported border-controlled drug.