A man allegedly caught with a massive haul of cocaine valued at up to $180,000 has been accused of operating in the high end of the drug distribution network.
Court documents show Jomal Nchouki was arrested on Friday (30 April) after he pulled into the car park at Bunnings Belconnen and police searched his white Nissan Navara ute, as well as the trailer it was towing.
They allegedly found a white and green Woolworths shopping bag inside the locked trailer containing two vacuum-sealed bags with “10xW” written on them in black marker.
Police said these bags contained smaller freezer bags allegedly filled with cocaine. They also allege he was carrying $1567 in cash.
Later, police also searched Mr Nchouki’s home in Denman Prospect, alleging they found a medium-sized clip seal bag containing cocaine hidden beneath the petrol cap of his white Volkswagen Golf.
A prosecutor later alleged in court about 510 grams of cocaine had been found during the search, which was around 70 times the trafficable quantity of the drug and was worth between $120,000 and $180,000.
The court documents show Nchouki’s iPhone was also examined, with police finding an account with the encrypted messenger service Wickr on the device.
Police allege one of the conversations from 30 April showed the 26-year-old had been supplied cocaine that day.
Nchouki applied for bail in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday (6 April) after being charged with one count of trafficking in a controlled drug other than cannabis. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.
His barrister, John Purnell SC, said while the prima facie evidence against his client was strong, a “real issue” for the prosecution was that police had no warrant to search the trailer. The warrants were issued for his cars and home.
Mr Purnell said if the material allegedly seized from the trailer was excluded from the case, that would “change the metrics” in terms of seriousness.
But the prosecutor said the trailer was attached to a car being driven by Mr Nchouki, that no one else was in the vehicle, and she alleged the drugs in the trailer were in a lockable compartment that was unlocked by a key on Nchouki’s key chain.
The prosecutor said messages seen by police alleged Nchouki had been involved in the drug trade since March last year. She suggested the messages contained “typical thug-like threats that often come hand in hand with the business of drug trafficking”.
She alleged the evidence suggested Mr Nchouki was involved in trafficking towards the higher end of the drug distribution network.
Magistrate Glenn Theakston agreed, saying two bundles of 10 bags of cocaine suggested the alleged offence was at the upper end of drug wholesale.
But he said any risks of offending once released would be addressed by bail conditions. Bail was granted bail and the announcement was met with cries of relief from a large number of Nchouki’s supporters present in the courtroom.
Nchouki, appearing over audio-visual link, teared up himself before whispering “thank you” and later blew a kiss to someone in court.
His bail conditions include reporting to the Tuggeranong Police Station twice a week as well as a curfew.
Magistrate Theakston accepted Mr Nchouki’s plea of not guilty to drug trafficking and adjourned the case to 15 July.