Turner 'pinnacle' in drug import

MACKAY businessman Markis Turner imported $20 million worth of cocaine by being “at the pinnacle” of an international drug syndicate and by being involved at every level, Commonwealth prosecutor Aaron Guilfoyle said yesterday.

Allegations about Turner’s role as a big player in the multi-million dollar importation were aired when Turner applied for bail in court in Mackay yesterday.

Turner first came to the attention of authorities last year when he unsuccessfully tried to buy up to 100kg of cocaine which had been smuggled into Sydney, Mr Guilfoyle said.

He went on two overseas trips since February 11 this year, leaving Australia for a total of 45 days and visiting Panama and Colombia.

He has allegedly sent large amounts of money overseas but authorities don’t know where it is.

Turner also planned future imports of large amounts of drugs, Mr Guilfoyle said.

“It is suspected that he has the means and the contacts to leave Australia,” Mr Guilfoyle said when he opposed a bail application in the Mackay Magistrate’s Court.

Markis Scott Turner, 38, is the sole director of CQE Materials and Handling Pty Ltd and he was one of four Mackay men arrested by Australian Federal Police (AFP) after more than 50kg of cocaine was found hidden in 17 of 600 barrels of hydraulic oil which were seized at the Mackay railway yards on Friday night.

It will be alleged that the drugs arrived from South America in Melbourne on May 10 and were then ferried to Brisbane before being placed on a train for Mackay.

A total of 14 arrests have been made in Australia, Panama and Colombia.

Townsville-based barrister Justin Greggery applied for bail for Turner saying that although Turner was not married and did not have children he had strong ties to the Mackay community and would not flee.

It was conceded for the purposes of the bail application that there was a strong case against Turner and that, if convicted, he faced a lengthy term of imprisonment, Mr Greggery said.

Turner’s mother could pay substantial cash surety and he could forfeit any passports and not get to any international ports of departure, Mr Greggery said.

More importantly, Turner’s business which now employed 35 people would be at risk of closing if he did not get bail.

“There are far-reaching financial consequences of him being held in custody,” Mr Greggery said.

“His company relies significantly on his regular involvement and management.”

At one point in 2007 when Turner went overseas, he came home to a debt of $1.5 million to the Australia Taxation Office but Turner “dug in and settled the debt” and that was a good reflection on his character, Mr Greggery said.

Mr Guilfoyle argued that no bail conditions could reduce Turner’s flight risk to an acceptable level.

“It’s alleged he’s been involved in every step of the way and he’s been at the pinnacle of the syndicate,” Mr Guilfoyle said.

“The maximum sentence is life.

"This case falls in the worst category of cases and he could expect a sentence of life with a non-parole period of 20 to 25 years, if convicted, and even allowing for discounts.

“That provides the incentive for him to flee the jurisdiction.

“His ties to the community are in his business and his parents.

“It is not a relevant consideration that he might need time to wind up his business, sort out his financial situation, or help his parents.”

Magistrate Ron Muirhead said there was an unacceptable risk that Turner would not appear in court on a future date if granted bail.

Bail was refused and Turner was remanded in custody until July 19.

Three other Colombian-born men who have lived in Mackay for about two years each were also charged.

They did not apply for bail and were also remanded in custody until July 19.

It is believed Turner’s lawyers will go to the Supreme Court, which is sitting in Mackay this week, to appeal the Magistrate’s refusal to grant him bail.

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