7 September 2021

Queenslander found hiding in Airbnb closet charged with breaching COVID lockdown

| Albert McKnight
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ACT Courts

Taisi Saipani, 29, has been refused bail by the ACT Magistrates Court. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A labourer from Queensland has been charged with allegedly breaching the ACT’s COVID-19 lockdown after he was found hiding in the closet of a central Canberra Airbnb.

In court documents, police alleged people in the Siena Apartments in Campbell saw a red Mazda 6 try to enter the complex by tailgating behind a resident’s vehicle at about 8:30 pm on Saturday (4 September).

The resident went up to the Mazda and asked the driver what he was doing. The driver allegedly became aggressive and told him he was staying at an Airbnb unit in the building. The resident walked away, fearing violence.

Police arrived shortly afterwards and knocked on the door of the Airbnb unit the driver said he was staying at. Initially, they found three men inside, but during their search they found a woman and 29-year-old Taisi Saipani hiding in different closets.

Police asked him why he allegedly wasn’t in lockdown, but he said he would not say anything.

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They also found a satchel in the unit they allege contained Saipani’s wallet and several small bags of methamphetamine, or ‘ice’, that weighed about 16 grams in total.

Saipani was arrested. The others were told to go home and that they would be contacted later over allegedly breaching COVID restrictions.

On Monday (6 September), Saipani appeared in the ACT Magistrates and was handed charges that included possessing methamphetamine for sale or supply, failing to comply with a direction of the Public Health Act without a reasonable excuse and failing to appear in court after a bail undertaking.

A warrant had been issued for his arrest in May 2021 when he allegedly failed to appear in court after being granted bail on unrelated charges.

He applied for bail for his fresh charges and Magistrate Robert Cook asked for more information on the alleged breach of the Public Health Act.

Saipani’s lawyer, Jacob Robertson of JDR Law, said his client had been living at the Airbnb to give his brother some space, which is why he was there as opposed to being at his brother’s house.

He said he was there “lawfully” with his partner, the woman found hiding in the wardrobe.

READ ALSO Three arrested on same day after allegedly breaking COVID-19 restrictions

He said there was an argument between his client and other residents in the apartment about whether he should be there or not, but “he wasn’t out and about”.

Mr Robertson also said that while his client didn’t know why his wallet was found in the satchel, the satchel was in a communal area and contained items belonging to other people.

He said if Saipani was released he could live with his brother in Scullin, who would also post a security of $2000.

But the prosecutor, Ms Lee, argued that being in an apartment with other people was an offence, “with quite good reason” due to the current coronavirus situation. She said Saipani had tried to hide from police in a wardrobe.

Magistrate Cook said he was not satisfied bail conditions would ensure Saipani would attend court and refused bail.

The matter was adjourned to 20 September. No pleas have been entered.

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