Mostafa Baluch was allegedly planning to escape Australia by setting sail from Far North Queensland to southeast Asia, before stepping on a jet to eastern Europe.
Police officers allegedly found Mr Baluch hidden in the boot of a Mercedes concealed inside a shipping container being towed by a truck early on Wednesday morning.
Dramatic bodycam footage shows officers approaching the container on the Gold Coast Highway at Bilinga, at the New South Wales border.
The 33-year-old fugitive, who allegedly cut off his ankle bracelet on October 25, accidentally gave himself away when an officer knocked on the side of the freight and he tapped back.
Mostafa Baluch (pictured) was allegedly planning to escape Australian shores by setting sail from Far North Queensland to southeast Asia, before stepping on a jet to eastern Europe
Police officers allegedly found Mr Baluch hidden in the boot of a Mercedes concealed inside a shipping container being towed by a truck early on Wednesday morning
Facing life behind bars after being charged over the importation of a $270million drug shipment, Baluch allegedly fled his multi-million dollar home on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
Sources revealed the well-connected former restaurateur allegedly planned to board a boat in the Sunshine State bound for Indonesia, before continuing on to Thailand.
From there police intelligence suggests Baluch would get on a plane to eastern Europe, the Daily Telegraph reported.
In video from his arrest, officers from Queensland’s Crime and Intelligence Command shouted ‘armed police! Armed police!’ as they open the door to the container.
A figure in a dark t-shirt is then seen being handcuffed beside a police vehicle.
Mostafa Baluch (pictured sitting) has been captured by police after a two week manhunt
‘During a search of the container police located a large amount of cash, a number of mobile phones and personal property,’ a Queensland police statement said.
Officers can be seen removing a wad of notes from a black bag in the footage.
Sixteen days earlier Baluch allegedly cut off a monitor device while on bail – sparking ‘one of the largest fugitive hunts in the country’.
‘Officers noticed some suspicious items with the container that wasn’t properly locked and other things that caught their attention,’ Organised Crime Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Rob Crichlow told reporters.
‘There was a knock on the side of the truck and he knocked back. He was a bit shocked and ultimately good police work secured his arrest.
‘We suspect that the person… thought it was a drop off point – that he was being signalled that it is safe.
‘Of course, he didn’t realise it was a constable.’
Baluch was found in the boot of this grey Mercedes (pictured) in a shipping container on the back of a truck crossing the NSW/Queensland border at Tweed Heads
Baluch’s $4million home in Sydney’s exclusive Northern Beaches (pictured in June) will be seized by police after he allegedly cut off his tracking device and fled
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.
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.
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.
NSW Police Minister David Elliott paid tribute to the constable who knocked on the truck.
‘I’m tracking down the constable that did the famous knock on the side of the truck,’ he said.
‘He’ll get a beer and a hug from me when the borders open and if that’s not an enticement for Queensland to open the borders, I don’t know what is.’
Baluch was last seen in Bayview on Sydney’s northern beaches on October 25, just days after he was granted bail.
He was released from custody under strict conditions, including $4million surety on his waterfront home at Bayview which is now in the process of being seized by authorities.
‘The decision to release Baluch on bail also proved incredibly expensive,’ Mr Elliott said.
‘I’d have nightmares if I even started to think about (the cost).’
Baluch had been charged with a string of drug offences related to a 900kg shipment of cocaine into Australia that had a street value of $270 million, but will also face charges over his breach of bail.
The man who was driving the truck in which Baluch was found – who police say owns a transport company – was also arrested by officers from Traffic and Highway Patrol Command during a vehicle stop at Tucabia, near Grafton, just before 9am.
The truck has been seized and will undergo forensic and compliance-related examinations.
A Yowie Bay man was taken to Grafton Police Station, where he was charged with and act intending to pervert the course of justice.
‘(Police) are now going through that trucking company with a fine tooth comb and we understand that there’ll be very few trucks left in the road tomorrow when they’re finished,’ Det Supt Critchlow said.
Baluch pictured outside his home in Mona Vale on October 25, just hours before the alleged international drug lord disappeared
Det Supt Crichlow said investigators spent the last 16 days working around the clock to track Baluch down.
‘He had a lot of help but there were a lot of people against him,’ he said.
‘The community have turned the criminal element against him. He attracted a lot of attention and it’s caused impacts for people he knows.
‘We will look at everybody he knows and everybody he talks to and we have and we’ve achieved excellent results. We’ll continue with that.’
Baluch was taken to Southport Watch House and remains in custody.
He is expected to be taken back to Sydney on Thursday.
HOW THE COPS CAUGHT BALUCH
2020: Mostafa Baluch was arrested as part of an investigation into an alleged organised crime sting plotting to supply three tonnes of cocaine in NSW. Detectives started the investigation after receiving a tip about a person gambling a huge amount of money at the Star Casino. The betting was flagged as potential money laundering and kicked off an investigation that eventually became focused on drug trafficking.
June 2021: Charged with drug offences when his Bayview home on Sydney’s northern beaches was raided
October 22, 2021: He was granted bail on several conditions and was forced to wear an ankle monitor
October 25, 2021: The tracking device stopped working and police began urgently tracking down the fugitive
October 26, 2021: Baluch was due to face court but didn’t arrive. Police believe they spotted Baluch in the backseat of a black Range Rover as it travelled east on the M4 at Croydon.
November 4: Police raid homes in Potts Hill and Yagoona in Sydney’s south-west in their manhunt for Baluch. They seized more than $250,000 cash, about 200 grams of cocaine, 485 grams of an unknown substance, mobile phones, and an electronic money counter
November 5: Organised Crime Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Rob Crichlow says police are closing in on the hunt to find the fugitive and believed he was still in NSW.
November 10: Baluch is captured by police on the NSW/Queensland border when police intercepted a truck. Baluch was found hiding in the boot of a Mercedes SUV in a shipping container on the back of the truck.