Surfer turned drug baron who used horse racing to cover up his $68million cocaine ring is jailed for 28 years for smuggling 228kg of the drug
- Famous racehorse owner Damion Flower was sentenced for smuggling scheme
- On Friday Flower was sentenced to at least 17 years and partner at least 14 years
- Flower and his partner To’Oto’O Mafiti smuggled cocaine out of Sydney airport
- Mafiti was a former Qantas baggage handler so could bypass levels of security
High-profile racehorse owner Damion Flower has been jailed for at least 17 years for smuggling a massive amount of pure cocaine into Australia.
The former airport baggage handler played a ‘significant managerial and organisational role’ in the importation of 228 kilograms of the drug, Judge Sarah Huggett said on Friday.
At the time of his arrest in May 2019, Flower was a darling of racing, having risen from blue-collar roots to prominence with Group One-winning horse Snitzel.
Flower owned horses with high-profile Sydneysiders including businessman John Singleton (right), broadcaster Alan Jones and rugby league great Phil Gould (left), none of whom knew anything about his other business. Flower is pictured next to businesswoman Katie Page
Damion Flower, owner of famous racehorse Snitzel, has been sentenced to at least 17 years in jail for smuggling cocaine into South Africa
He established a prominent stable and a multi-million dollar training facility in Sydney’s northwest.
As Australia’s champion stallion, Snitzel commanded about $40 million a year in service fees about the time Flower was caught.
Flower, 49, and Qantas baggage handler and ramp operator, To’Oto’O Mafiti, 53, pleaded guilty to importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug between June 2016 and May 2019.
Flower also admitted dealing with money believed to be the proceeds of crime greater than $100,000 found at his Moorebank home.
Flower’s partner, To’Oto’O Mafiti, was a former Qantas employee and so was able to sneak the illegal drug through airport security
When Flower was arrested at his home in Sydney’s Moorebank in May 2019 police found more than $1 million cash
Mafiti admitted the same offence but the amount was greater than $1 million, after police found more than $6 million at his home and in storage.
On 12 occasions over three years, a bag containing 19 kilos of pure cocaine was checked into a Qantas flight from South Africa.
The men used covert phones to send coded texts about the arrival of the bags at Sydney airport.
Mafiti would collect them and take them out the side doors, being able to bypass security through his employee status.
In sentencing them in the NSW District Court on Friday, Judge Huggett said the offending was ‘an extremely serious example’ of drug importing which took place over a number of years.
She jailed Flower for 28 years with a non-parole period of 17 years.
Thoroughbred owner Damion Flower is pictured with wife Camilla
On 12 occasions over three years, a bag containing 19 kilos of pure cocaine was checked into a Qantas flight from South Africa
Mafiti was jailed for 23 years with a non-parole period of 14 years.
Flower’s lawyer had submitted that his love of family and his desire to prop up flailing businesses were behind his involvement in the smuggling.
The judge noted his business acumen, finding he well understood the serious illegality of what he was doing which was for ‘substantial rewards’.
He played a significant managerial and organisational role and was more heavily involved in the importation than Mafiti.
Flower’s lawyer had submitted that his love of family and his desire to prop up flailing businesses were behind his involvement in the smuggling
The evidence suggested Mafiti didn’t spend the money or use it to accumulate assets, Judge Huggett said.
The scheme was ‘far from amateurish’ although more sophisticated plots could be contemplated.
The prosecutor had submitted that ‘the system worked because of the knowledge and the privileges of Mafiti being a Qantas baggage handler’.
The judge referred to the terrible harm caused by drugs.
‘The whole community suffers when illegal drugs enter the community.’
She found both men were contrite and both had taken steps towards their rehabilitation.