Captured fugitive Mostafa Baluch has arrived back in Sydney, shackled and dressed in prison greens, 16 days after he skipped bail by allegedly cutting off his ankle-monitoring device.
At Sydney’s Bankstown Airport, he was escorted off a police light aircraft by two heavily-armed officers at the end of a one-and-a-half-hour flight from Coolangatta on the Gold Coast.
He was then driven to Silverwater Jail, where he will face additional charges before he faces Central Local Court today.
He has been charged with an outstanding arrest warrant.
Senior police allege the accused drug trafficker was planning to sail from Queensland to Thailand to evade authorities.
Mr Baluch was caught hiding in a car on the back of a truck near the Queensland border early yesterday after a major police manhunt.
He vanished on October 25 , fleeing his luxury home on Sydney’s northern beaches four days after being granted bail on drug importation charges.
After a costly multi-agency search, a truck was pulled over near the NSW-Queensland border yesterday after it raised suspicions for having an unlocked shipping container on the back.
Police knocked on the shipping container Mr Baluch was hiding in and instead of keeping quiet, he knocked back.
He was then found inside a Mercedes which was inside the container.
Sources close to the investigation say Mr Baluch was allegedly planning to escape to Thailand before catching a plane to the Balkans in south-east Europe, where he has “strong and powerful underworld friends”.
“We are really glad we got to arrest him before he fled the country because it would have taken years to get him back, and cost millions of dollars,” a senior detective said.
Despite ending one of the biggest manhunts in Australia, Queensland Police failed to arrest the truck driver who was ferrying Mr Baluch.
The driver, John Kitanovski, was then able to travel more than 200 kilometres before NSW Police arrested him at Grafton in northern NSW.
“I am sure Queensland Police did the best they could but ultimately what’s more important is the outcome and the outcome is he is caught, so that’s the focus,” NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said.
“The outcome is what matters,” he said.
Mr Kitanovski, who owns Kit Bros Transport in the Sydney suburb of Liverpool, was charged with intending to pervert the course of justice and was refused bail at Grafton court yesterday.
After police raided the trucking company yesterday, highway patrol officers returned to the yard this morning to order trucks to undergo compliance checks.
Mr Baluch, who is unvaccinated and in isolation, faced Southport Magistrates Court via telephone on Thursday for an extradition hearing.
Magistrate Mark Howden ordered that he be remanded in custody and taken to Sydney Central Local Court on or before November 12.
The matter had been adjourned since his arrest on Wednesday, as the court awaited the arrival of NSW detectives, who took up almost half of the public gallery in the Queensland court this morning.
Outside court, Mr Baluch’s lawyer Nicholas Andrews said his client was “doing well”.
“He’s in good spirits and that’s all I can say at this time,” he said.
He did not comment on whether the 33-year-old intended to enter a plea of guilty on the drug offences once he faced court in Sydney.
A massive operation — involving police from four states — as well as federal and oversees intelligence agencies resulted in Mr Baluch’s capture on Wednesday.
Detective Superintendent Robert Critchlow said the investigation had now widened, with more arrests likely over the next few months.
“This is really exciting for us because it has given us great potential to dismantle a major trafficking syndicate,” he said.
Police said Mr Baluch was expected to face more charges when he arrived in Sydney, where he would face court for allegedly organising the importation of 900 kilograms of cocaine from Ecuador into Australia in June.
His multi-million dollar Bayview home, which was put up as surety to secure his release on last month, is now in the hands of the state and his family have been forced to find somewhere else to live.
Once Mr Baluch arrives back in Sydney, he is expected to be taken to Silverwater Prison before his next court appearance.