At 1am on Wednesday 10 November the Queensland Police stopped a truck on the NSW Queensland border in Tweed Heads and arrested 33-year-old man hiding inside a grey Mercedes.
Mostafa Baluch had been on bail following arrest for ‘One of the biggest cocaine importations into Australia,’ a NSW Police spokesperson told The Echo.
Strike Force Jillabenan II was established by Organised Crime Squad detectives to locate Mr Baluch, who was wanted for a breach of bail and last seen at Bayview on Monday 25 October 2021. They are now seeking the extradition of Mr Baluch to NSW after he was arrested in Queensland.
‘We received information that he was likely to be travelling in a truck to escape NSW, but really it came down to the diligence of the Queensland Police service to check the trucks to check the trucks coming through Tweed Heads and they made that discovery then,’ said Detective Super Intendent Robert Critchlow following the arrest.
‘They [Queensland Police] noticed some suspicious items within the container, it wasn’t locked, there were some other things that brought their attention.’
Officers searched the container on the back of the truck, where they located the 33-year-old Mr Baluch hiding inside a grey Mercedes trunk.
‘As we’ve said famously there was a knock on the side of the truck [by a Queensland Police officer] and he knocked back. He was a bit shocked when we found him,’ said Detective Critchlow.
900 kilos of cocaine
The 17-day investigation was assisted by the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Border Force, the NSW Crime Commission, and interstate police.
According to the ABC he had attempted to import 900 kilograms of cocaine.
‘Mr Baluch is facing charges over an alleged attempt to import cocaine into Australia from Ecuador. The cocaine was seized from a vessel travelling off the coast of Ecuador in April and had a street value of $270 million.’
Mr Baluch had been released on bail and then allegedly ‘cut off an ankle tracking bracelet and disappeared from his home on Sydney’s northern beaches,’ say the ABC.
Police Minister takes swipe at Courts
Following the arrest Minister for Police and Emergency Services, David Elliott took a swipe at the courts saying ‘Can I also apologise to the international law enforcement agencies whose work that led to, assisted us, in the arrest of this individual. And of course the anxiety that’s been caused over the last two weeks because of the very questionable decision that gave him bail in the first place.’
Mr Elliott then made it clear he did not blame the police force for the escape saying ‘Credit to Super Intendent Rob Critchlow and his team who have been ruthless over the last two weeks in making sure that they did not miss a beat when it come to monitoring, and eventually capturing Mostafa.’
Truck driver released before arrest
The driver of the truck, Jovanco Kitanovski, that was attempting to transport Mr Baluch from NSW to Queensland, was released by the Queensland Police when the arrest of Mr Baluch was made.
NSW Police spokesperson told The Echo that the ‘Interception was made by Qld Police and they let the truck driver go and then he was picked up by NSW Police in Grafton.’
‘The 46-year-old male truck driver was arrested by officers from Traffic and Highway Patrol Command during a vehicle stop at Tucabia, near Grafton, just before 9am,’ said the NSW Police in a media release following the arrest.
‘The truck has been seized and will undergo forensic and compliance-related examinations.
‘The Yowie Bay man was taken to Grafton Police Station, where he was charged with do act intending to pervert the course of justice.
‘He was refused bail to appear at Grafton Local Court this afternoon (Wednesday, 10 November).’
The ABC has reported that Mr Baluch’s $4 million dollar northern beaches home that was put up for bail surety has been seized and that Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith said ‘police would seize more of Mr Baluch’s assets’.
‘Last week, police alleged Mr Baluch had a “senior role” in a wider criminal network and that they had concerns for the public’s safety while he remained at large,’ say the ABC.
‘In relation to the investigation, police raided two properties in Potts Hill and Yagoona five days ago and seized $250,000 in cash, 200 grams of cocaine, mobile phones, money-counting machines and 458 grams of an “unknown substance”.
‘They also seized a black Range Rover with Queensland number plates after it was captured on CCTV driving through the M4 tunnel near Croydon only hours after Mr Baluch fled his Bayview home.’