6 September 2022

League player sentenced to two years' jail for $160,000 Bunnings drug bust

| Albert McKnight
Jomal Nchouki

Jomal Nchouki approaches the ACT courthouse on crutches on Tuesday morning. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A former Canberra Raider who fell into drug dealing and was busted with up to $160,000-worth of cocaine outside Bunnings Belconnen was spotted wiping his eyes when he was convicted and sentenced to two years’ jail.

Police began investigating Jomal Nchouki’s drug trafficking in late 2020 and had been monitoring his movements, discovering he had been trafficking to three men who had been on-selling to customers of their own.

He was pulled over in a traffic stop outside the hardware superstore on 30 April 2021 and police found bags of cocaine in his car and trailer.

About 400 grams of cocaine was discovered, estimated to have been worth between about $120,000 and $160,000.

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When the 27-year-old testified earlier this month, before the proceedings were adjourned so he could have a knee operation for an injury he received playing rugby league, he said he got the cocaine from a man at a job site to whom he owed money.

“I’m struggling and you’re taking a f-ing photo…” he grumbled at this reporter as he used crutches to hobble his way towards the ACT Supreme Court on Tuesday morning (30 August).

He had pleaded guilty to trafficking cocaine, which has a maximum sentence of 10 years’ jail.

He also confessed to charges of unlicensed driving, using an unregistered vehicle and using an uninsured vehicle.

Justice David Mossop described him as a mid-level dealer who supplied others to support his own habit and pay off drug debts.

He said Nchouki became addicted to cocaine in the years before the offence and at one stage was smoking 10 to 12 grams of the drug each week.

Justice Mossop said the father-of-two worked as a carpenter and had spent three years as a professional football player with the Canberra Raiders.

He’d returned to playing football, but only six weeks after starting first grade he injured his knee, for which he needed surgery.

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Nchouki described his arrest as something that had saved his life. Justice Mossop found him to be engaging, have insight into his circumstances and thought he had good prospects for rehabilitation.

He said a full-time jail sentence was required but thought a long period would set Nchouki back in his rehabilitation, so decided to suspend it after a short period.

Nchouki’s jail sentence will be suspended after he has served four months, which means he will be released in December 2022 if he signs a two-year good behaviour order.

He was also fined $3250 with no time to pay.

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