11 August 2022

Bunnings drug bust nets up to $160,000-worth of cocaine from trafficker

| Albert McKnight
Men leaving court

Jomal Nchouki (left) leaves court after his sentence hearing on Wednesday. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A drug bust outside Bunnings Belconnen netted almost 400 grams of cocaine, which could have been worth up to $160,000.

Court documents say Jomal Nchouki had already been under surveillance by police in April 2021 and had apparently been seen conducting what appeared to be drug transactions.

When officers pulled him over in a traffic stop outside the hardware superstore on 30 April 2021, they searched his car and trailer and found the cocaine in five different bags.

It was estimated that if sold in one gram deals, the drugs would be worth between about $120,000 and $160,000.

The 27-year-old pleaded guilty to a charge of trafficking in a controlled drug other than cannabis and appeared in the ACT Supreme Court for his sentencing to begin on Wednesday (10 August).

He took the stand to testify, telling the court he got the cocaine from a man at a job site to whom he owed money.

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He said he thought there hadn’t been any repercussions about the debt since the seizure as he was incarcerated and the man would have known to stay away from him.

His barrister Steven Whybrow asked if he was worried someone may “come knocking on the door” one day and tell him he still owed money.

“I’ll always have those concerns, yes,” Nchouki said.

His partner also took the stand to testify.

“I knew he was taking drugs; I just didn’t know he was going to sell them,” she said.

Mr Whybrow said his client had been driving around with the drugs in an unregistered car without a licence, so police didn’t necessarily need to be surveilling him for their scheme to come undone.

He said Nchouki had shown remorse and had good prospects of rehabilitation. Also, as he spent 30 per cent of the last 15 months in home detention, he had shown he could comply with the strict conditions that would come with a community-based intensive corrections order.

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But the Crown prosecutor argued the facts did not simply show a search and seizure, but there was evidence that he had been trafficking over three weeks.

He argued this case did warrant imprisonment.

Justice David Mossop said he originally intended to hand down his sentence on 10 August, but due to an upcoming medical appointment for Nchouki, he said he would reserve his decision to 30 August.

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