The NSW Police Minister has unleashed on the magistrate who granted bail to ‘Australia’s Pablo Escobar’ against the advice of enforcement – after he cut off his ankle monitoring bracelet and vanished.
Mostafa Baluch, 33, from Sydney’s northern beaches was granted bail on Friday against the advice of police despite facing a life sentence if convicted for for allegedly masterminding the importation of a staggering 900kg of cocaine worth $270 million.
Police Minister David Elliott said police involved in the case were ‘devastated’ and he was furious Baluch had been granted bail.
‘To say that I’m infuriated would be an understatement… Because quite frankly this guy was our Pablo Escobar,’ he told Sydney radio 2GB on Wednesday.
‘I’m starting to get sick of these magistrates and judges. They don’t consider the danger which police present to them and I don’t think they’re reflecting the sentiment of the community they’re there to serve.
‘I’m sick of having to remind the legal fraternity that we’re not dealing with parking tickets, we’re dealing with international drug lords who are associated with terrorism, kidnapping and prostitution, but more importantly want our kids to take drugs that will kill them.’
Former restaurateur Mostafa Baluch, 33 (pictured), had been charged with financing a 900kg shipment of cocaine to Australia and was granted bail just days ago
Police allege Baluch (pictured) was the sole financier of a shipment of cocaine worth a total street value of $270 million
Police Minister David Elliott said police involved in the case were ‘devastated’ and he was furious Baluch had been granted bail
Baluch was arrested in June and charged with being part of a conspiracy to import more than 900kg of cocaine and was in custody until he was granted bail after putting up a $4 million property as surety.
It was a condition of his bail that he wear an electronic monitor but on Monday night he managed to cut off the ankle bracelet, which was found ditched by the side of a road on the northern beaches.
It’s believed he left NSW on a private jet that night.
Mr Elliott said he had spoken to Police Commissioner Mick Fuller about the difficulties in capturing the escapee.
‘This will be a tough job for the NSW police – make no mistake,’ he said.
The Australian Federal Police and its international law enforcement partners are also involved.
‘We’ve got the technology, we’ve got the manpower, we’ve got the international law enforcement credentials but of course we’ve also got to explain to some of those international law enforcement organisations how he was lost,’ Mr Elliott said.
Police ‘work their guts out to keep our community safe’ and had been ‘let down by the system’, he said.
‘We’re dealing with international drug lords who are associated with things like terrorism or kidnapping or prostitution,’ Mr Elliott said.
‘This guy was (allegedly) part of an international racket with levels of drugs we have never seen before. The police expressly advised the court ‘he is a bad guy’.
A $4million home in Sydney’s exclusive Northern Beaches (pictured in June) will be seized by police after the owner of the property allegedly cut off his tracking device and fled
Mr Elliott said he had spoken to Police Commissioner Mick Fuller about the difficulties in capturing the escapee. ‘This will be a tough job for the NSW police – make no mistake,’ he said
Officers are pictured at the Bayview home when Baluch was arrested back in June
Police allege he is involved in the ‘highest levels of organised crime’ and cut off his ankle bracelet at about 10.30pm on Monday.
Organised crime squad commander Detective Superintendent Rob Critchlow said the alleged drug kingpin is ‘very well connected’ and may be receiving help from other alleged criminals.
‘To cut a bracelet off your ankle which has been imposed by the court shows a very serious intent to flee,’ he told reporters on Tuesday.
‘We also know for a fact he has substantial financial assets, which we would expect he’s utilising to flee at the least our jurisdiction, maybe the country.
‘Anyone in his circle of friends and family should also keep us updated because you can be sure we will be visiting anyone we know is connected to.’
As part of Baluch’s strict bail conditions, he was required to stay at his luxurious Bayview home and only leave to report to police at Mona Vale Station once a day.
He was also made to wear an ankle bracelet monitoring device at all times, banned from alcohol and drugs, and restricted from using encrypted apps.
Baluch’s bail conditions also warned he was to go near any international departure point.
Baluch, who once owned Cervo restaurant in Northbridge, was swept up by police in June as part of the high profile ANoM raids in June (pictured)
NSW Police Minister David Elliott appeared to be seething that the millionaire restaurateur (pictured) was granted bail by the courts
Baluch (pictured after being arrested in June) now faces life imprisonment
With the alleged underworld figure now on the run after putting up his home for surety as part of his bail, police said they are now moving to seize the property.
Baluch, who once owned Cervo restaurant in Northbridge, was swept up by police in June as part of the high profile AN0M raids.
Law enforcement designed an encrypted app and marketed it to alleged underworld figures so investigators could monitor their communications.
He was charged with possessing anabolic steroids, drug supply, and dealing with the proceeds of crime and later hit with charge of conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of drugs.
He now faces life imprisonment.
NSW Police Minister David Elliott appeared to be seething that the millionaire restaurateur was granted bail by the courts.
‘He doesn’t deserve the confidence that the court has afforded him,’ he said.
‘But I’m pretty confident knowing the technology and surveillance techniques of the NSW Police he’ll be found.
‘My advice to him is to save yourself some time and anxiety and present yourself to the local police station today.’
Detectives started investigating Baluch last year after receiving a tip about a person gambling a huge amount of money at Star Casino.
The betting was flagged as potential money laundering and kicked off an investigation that eventually became focused on drug trafficking.
Police allege they discovered drugs were being imported across Australia and North and South America.
The US Navy seized 870kg of cocaine after intercepting a vessel travelling off the coast of Colombia in October 2020.
Another 900kg of the drug was seized from a boat sailing off the coast of Ecuador in April.
Both shipments allegedly formed part of the overarching conspiracy to import three tonnes of cocaine into Australia.
Detectives started investigating Baluch (pictured being arrested in June) last year after receiving a tip about a person gambling a huge amount of money at the Star Casino
Police allege Baluch was the sole financier of the second shipment of cocaine worth a total street value of $270 million.
A ‘massive manhunt’ is now underway
‘This man is a very dangerous offender,’ Superintendent Critchlow told reporters.
‘The allegations he’s been facing indicate that he was involved in the highest levels of organised crime and he presents a risk to the Australian community and probably now the world community.’
Baluch is about 180cm tall with a muscular build and is Mediterranean/Middle Eastern in appearance with black hair and brown eyes.
Police suspect is travelling in a dark grey luxury car and urged anyone who may have any information about his whereabouts to call Triple-0.
What is ANoM?
On its glitzy website, the ‘ANoM’ phone looks like any new tech innovation with sleek black lines, ‘invite only’ exclusivity and a pledge to ‘enforce your right to privacy’.
But its best feature – and for most of its users, the worst – wasn’t promoted in its marketing material.
The phone, which supposedly allowed encrypted communications safe from the eyes of the law, was actually a cunning trap laid for a who’s who of organised crime.
The Australian Federal Police in June revealed a breathtaking three-year tech ploy which led to 4,000 police executing 525 search warrants.
‘Enforce your right to privacy’: This is how the ANoM website advertised its product – with users not realising that law enforcement officials could read each and every message
Senior bikies and mafia figures were tricked into buying hi-tech phones that would supposedly let them messages one another, free of police snooping.
But the ANoM phones were actually designed by the FBI and allowed Australian police to read the texts of organised crime figures.
Police watched in real time as alleged crooks spilled their secrets to one another on their own app.
Some 21 execution plots were foiled and drug and gun smuggling networks dismantled.
Some 224 people have been arrested, $44,934,457 in cash seized, as well as 104 weapons, 3.7 tonnes of drugs and multi-million dollar assets.
Alleged crooks even paid six-monthly subscription fees to the police – the money only further reinforcing law enforcement methods.