Friday, April 22, 2011

Witness felt conned by Pakistani 'meth' men

Geesche Jacobsen April 22, 2011

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Mark Standen . . . accused.
OVER the past five weeks the jury in the trial of Mark Standen has been introduced to a world of colourful characters.

There has even been mention of Australian ''celebrities'' - Russell Crowe, Bob Hawke, James Packer and Rene Rivkin's sons.

They have heard about a series of companies and dozens of people, many with nicknames, in the Netherlands, Pakistan and elsewhere. And there were hundreds of emails and telephone calls organising what the prosecution alleges was the alleged importation of a large quantity of pseudoephedrine.

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So far, the jury has heard from only two of the proposed 45 witnesses, but most of the electronic evidence has now been tendered.

Mr Standen, a former assistant director of the NSW Crime Commission, is accused of conspiring with two others - Bill Jalalaty and a former drug dealer, James Kinch - to import the substance and to pervert the course of justice. He is also accused of taking part in the supply of 300 kilograms of pseudoephedrine.

It is alleged the precursor was to be hidden inside the second of two shipments of rice from Pakistan, but police found nothing but rice when they searched the goods.

Much of the evidence so far has concentrated on the many and clearly frustrating difficulties encountered in arranging the selection, payment, shipment and clearing of a ''test shipment'', and a second shipment of goods, which was allegedly to contain the drugs.

Many of the emails were saved in draft folders in Hotmail accounts and many of the phone calls use codes and nicknames, not referring overtly to any alleged criminal activity.

A member of the Dutch syndicate that was allegedly organising the deal, Rene Asbeek Brusse, told the court he believed two of the men the syndicate were dealing with in Pakistan were ''conning'' them.

''Abdul and Manuel [nicknamed after the character in Fawlty Towers], they were conning the whole thing because nothing was ever sent, although they sent - you know, stuff had been sent,'' he said.

Mr Asbeek Brusse, who gave evidence via an interpreter late on Wednesday, said he had been told by his friend and member of the syndicate, Loek Weerden, to travel to Pakistan to help the transport of goods for his ''strategic goods company''.

While he was there he was also told about a fine white powder Mr Weerden told him was ionamin, a product used to make weight loss pills.

He was shown a sample, but, ''It might as well have been flour because I'm not a chemist,'' he said.

However, when he later saw a facsimile of a certificate of analysis on the hotel bed of Abdul, who was blind, which was headed ''pseudoephedrine hydrochloride'', he says he took the document.

Mr Asbeek Brusse said he argued with Mr Weerden about the document after he discovered the substance could be used to manufacture ''meth''.

Mr Weerden denied the certificate belonged to him but Mr Asbeek Brusse said he decided not to ''do it'' and packed up his things. He later co-operated with Dutch authorities after the arrest of members of the syndicate, the court heard.

He said he believed Mr Weerden wanted the powder to go into a container to another country.

So far, neither Mr Asbeek Brusse, nor the main police witness, Paul Watt, have been cross-examined and Mr Standen's version of events has only been briefly outlined to the jury and shown in a four-hour interview he gave to police when he was arrested in June 2008.

He denied any knowledge of the substance, but acknowledged trying to enter into business with Mr Jalalaty and communicating with Mr Kinch, a former Crime Commission informer.

Many of the phone calls and conversations intercepted by police in a year bear witness to Mr Standen's financial difficulties and record that he was repeatedly given money by Mr Jalalaty.

When confronted with a recording of one of those conversations, Mr Standen told police: ''If I said it, I said it. It's just a question of what it means.''

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Court hears Standen police interview

Geesche Jacobsen April 21, 2011

HOURS after he was arrested in June 2008, former Crime Commission investigator Mark Standen told police he knew nothing about ''any drug being in anything'' and had ''never been a party to any discussion about any drug component''.
Mr Standen, who spoke to federal police for more than four hours, explained he was exploring a ''business relationship'' with the businessman Bill Jalalaty, but had warned him about the risks of charlatans contacting him.
Court hears Standen police interview (Video Thumbnail)Mr Standen said: ''Hence my comment: 'Are you sure it's just rice?' The way he went about the business was odd. A Lebanese guy [Mr Jalalaty] running around the world saying 'Send me anything from anywhere', hand[ing] out business cards.''
He called Mr Jalalaty ''unusual'', ''likeable'' and ''the world's biggest liar'', but said he was not ''harmful''.
Mr Standen has been charged with conspiring with Mr Jalalaty and the former informer James Kinch to import pseudoephedrine and to pervert the course of justice, and with taking part in the supply of 300 kilograms of the drug's precursor.
At his trial this week the court heard evidence of the Federal Police interview. Mr Standen appeared relaxed during the interview, which ended after he received legal advice not to answer any more questions.
Mr Standen earlier assured officers: ''It's a true story, and it's about not having any involvement in the offence that you're talking about. I remain quite prepared to tell you that story. Part of it relies on stupidity .. it looks worse than what it is.''
Mr Standen told officers he had ''a degree of nervousness'' about the involvement of Mr Kinch, a former drug dealer who had told him he had given up ''all the syndicates .. that he worked with''.
''We had these great plans to make money .. And then all of a sudden for whatever reason, but not of my doing, Kinch has got a hand in it.'' Mr Kinch's involvement followed a meeting in Dubai, which was not planned.
Mr Standen told officers about communicating with Mr Kinch on draft email accounts, like ''playing chess'', but said most of their emails were about ''crap''.
He also discussed his financial problems and said he was interested in Mr Jalalaty's business opportunities, including the possible import of timber, olive oil, tomatoes, sugar, water and fish fillets for Hungry Jack's.
The trial continues.