If you follow the money – bundles of it generated with no legitimate explanation – you can know only one product was behind it.
That’s what prosecutor Brian Dickey told jurors in his closing address at the Bastion Pt cocaine trial today.
Russian sailor Aleksandr Cherushev and Polish men Ryszard “Richie” Wilk and Patryk Lukasz Lukasik have pleaded not guilty to importing cocaine.
But Dickey told the High Court in Auckland that Richie Wilk and his son Ralph Wilk were the hub of an Auckland operation generating piles of cash.
Dickey suggested a flurry of illegal activity in September 2016 brought the Wilks enough cash to quickly pay off a drug courier, start laundering money, then depart.
“They are awash with cash. That’s their headache. That’s their problem,” Dickey said.
But jurors also heard some alleged drugrunners and hangers-on accused each other of treachery, and the Wilks had enough unfinished business to return to New Zealand.
A Customs officer approached the senior Wilk at Auckland International Airport in April 2017 and found him with $70,000 cash, jurors heard.
Dickey told the High Court in Auckland the Wilks were clearly in “the nefarious business of drug importation and supply”.
He said at least $1million was laundered in transactions allegedly linked to sales of imported drugs.
“It casts an air of unreality about innocent propositions.”
Richie Wilk was the cocaine ring boss, Dickey said today.
Lukasik is accused of money laundering but denies the charge.
The Crown claims Cherushev, a seaman on the ship Discovery Bay, imported cocaine in 2016 after taking advantage of lax port security.
Wilk and Lukasik declined to call or give evidence but Cherushev did give evidence in his own defence, rebuffing suggestions he knew about any cocaine business.
Dickey said Cherushev walked off Discovery Bay with kilograms of cocaine which he supplied to Richie Wilk in Auckland on September 7, 2016.
The Crown also claimed Cherushev met the Wilks six days later at a New World Mt Maunganui supermarket car park.
Cherushev denied ever meeting the Wilks.
“You know very well that you were in the carpark … being paid your commission on the couriering of cocaine into this country,” Dickey said.
He said port security at Tauranga and Auckland was lax, and sailors weren’t routinely searched.
Cherushev said at least seven times he knew nothing about cocaine importation.
The Crown has pointed to seized messages from phone apps, surveillance material and cash found in a covert break-in as evidence of a cocaine conspiracy.
Dickey suggested cocaine could have been smuggled onto Discovery Bay in Ecuador, or even Gibraltar.
Cherushev said even as the ship’s second-on-command, he would not get advance warning of where Discovery Bay would be going.
“I will repeat once again, for the twentieth time, only the loading broker will tell where and when the boat will be heading,” the seaman told Dickey.
Jurors heard Ralph Wilk had already admitted supplying cocaine.
The Crown also alleges garbage bags and cocaine remnants detectives dug up at Bastion Pt in July 2017 were linked to a multinational drug conspiracy.
The trial continues.
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