Former NRL player Jamil Hopoate has been arrested and faces large commercial drug supply charges after police allegedly uncovered a drug importation scheme involving half a tonne of cocaine, worth $155 million.
The consignment was alleged to have originated in the United Kingdom and travelled to Sydney where it was intercepted by Australian Border Force (ABF) officers.
Hopoate was allegedly apprehended by officers after running away from them and throwing a backpack into a backyard.
He is currently bail refused and remains in custody.
Large Commercial Drug Supply Allegations
ABF officers acted on intelligence information that suggested a consignment was due to arrive in Sydney from England.
Police claim that 26-year-old Hopoate was seen accessing a van that contained the drugs on the morning of 18th May 2021 at Botany, in Sydney's south-east. He then left in a car with a woman.
The facts sheet alleges that officers attempted to intercept the car before it took off, however the driver lead them on a police pursuit through the streets of Botany.
As police approached the vehicle, they said that Leanne Mafoa - the driver - reversed at speed before Hopoate exited the car and threw a backpack into a nearby yard.
Upon his arrest he was charged with large commercial drug supply.
A 33-year-old female from Collaroy was also arrested and charged with large commercial drug supply and a weapons offence.
In addition, a 28-year-old man from Minto in Sydney's west was also arrested and also charged with drug supply.
Bail Application for Large Commercial Drug Supply Charges
However, it was suggested that the substance was actually an "innocent material" that merely looked like cocaine. ABF officers had substituted this substance for the cocaine while monitoring the consignment.
It was said this meant the prosecution's "non-existent" case had no prospect of conviction.
"Very simply, to have possession of the prohibited drug under the [Drugs Misuse and Trafficking] Act, he's got to have the drug. He doesn't," Hopoate's criminal lawyer said.
Further, it was argued that there was no suggestion of criminal conspiracy, nor evidence of encrypted communication with those suspected to be involved with the consignment.
The court heard that as an off-contract player, Jamil Hopoate had only been able to pick up "bits and pieces" of cash and work. However, his father John Hopoate had offered to supervise his son and work as a panel beater if granted bail.
His brother, Will Hopoate, also offered to put up equity in a property as security and act as a surety. to the value of some $50,000.
The court also heard that people with a high profile in rugby league were "likely to be discriminated against in jail".
However, Magistrate Philip Stewart refused the bail application and did not accept the arguments put forward by Hopoate's criminal defence lawyers.
He said there were clear inferences available, such as that the backpack that was thrown over the fence before he was arrested contained actual drugs, rather than an "inert substance".
Mr Hopoate, appearing via video link, waved and smiled to his family before he learned of the decision.
The case returns to court in July.
Jamil Hopoate is the son of former Manly player John Hopoate and brother of Bulldogs player Will Hopoate was sacked from the Brisbane Broncos at the end of last year.
Drug Supply Charges
The definition of drug supply is contained in Section 25(1) of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW) which explains that if an Accused knowingly takes part in the process of supplying, or agreeing to supply a prohibited drug, they can be found guilty of this offence.
Police have to prove a number of elements of a drug supply charge beyond reasonable doubt before a person can be convicted.
First, they must prove that the Accused engaged in the supply of a substance, or knowingly took part in the supply of a substance.
Secondly, they must prove that the substance was a prohibited drug or that the Accused believed it was a prohibited drug.
The following defences to drug supply can also be used:
- Illegal search: If Police found the drug due to an unlawful search. This may be due to Police not having reasonable grounds to search you, or any warrant(s) they have used being improper or defective
- The Accused had no intention to supply
- The Accused did not know they were in possession of the drug
- Carey defence: The Accused was holding the drug on behalf of another person and intended to give it back to that person (Carey (1990) 50 A Crim R 163)
- The substance was not a prohibited drug, AND the Accused did not believe, nor did they hold it out as a prohibited drug
- Duress: You were forced to commit the drug supply
- The prohibited drug was for personal use
- The weight of the drug is not correct. For example, the amount is less than the large commercial drug supply quantity.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.