The Aussie mother behind a $30 million cocaine deal
Nothing illustrates the resilience and resourcefulness of organised crime than the story of a Sydney cocaine dealer known to police as ‘Aunty’. She is a Colombian woman in her fifties who came to Australia with her family in the 1970s. She is the face of a syndicate that has been operating for almost two decades.
Her husband stays in the background but has the necessary power and influence with Colombian cocaine barons. The syndicate imports around a tonne of cocaine every eighteen months. It is estimated to have carried out at least ten and possibly as many as fourteen importations (totalling between 10 and 14 tonnes of the drug). The cocaine is sold in bulk, primarily to networks in Sydney, but it also makes its way to other state capitals.
The retirement of some distributors and the arrest and jailing of others enabled an eastern suburbs professional surfer and dealer Shane Hatfield to progress up the drug chain. By the early 2000s he was dealing directly with Aunty. One of Hatfield’s distributors was a criminal in his mid twenties who has been given the pseudonym ‘Tom’ by law-enforcement authorities.
Tom has never held a job or had a legitimate income. He was a cannabis smoker at school and on leaving he quickly moved into the drug trade as a supplier. His progression from small-time dealer to large-scale trafficker was swift. He became part of a network aligned to an outlaw motorcycle gang whose drug operations were centred in Adelaide but spread to most states and territories of Australia.
As well as cannabis, Tom trafficked in ecstasy and cocaine. He carried a gun. Once he kidnapped another dealer who had ripped off his South Australian bikie drug suppliers and put him in a car for delivery to the Adelaide gang. Tom told a court that he never saw the drug dealer again but that he didn’t consider it a kidnapping because ‘He never asked to get out [of the boot].’
Arrested several times, Tom bribed police in the ‘tens of thousands of dollars’ to reduce or beat the charges and at other times bribed them for information they might have had about his activities or the activities of his associates. By 2000 Tom was selling cocaine supplied by Hatfield. Four years later he was a partner with Hatfield who had progressed to become one of Aunty’s major distributors.
In mid 2004 Aunty’s syndicate made another successful importation of around one tonne. Over six months Hatfield and Tom sold 200 kilograms of Aunty’s cocaine, most of which found its way onto the streets of Kings Cross and to the Bandidos outlaw motorcycle gang. Hatfield and Tom sold the 200 kilograms for around $30 million cash. Of that they paid Aunty $24 million and kept around $6 million for themselves.
The Bandido’s buyer was Rodney ‘Hooksey’ Monk, president of the Sydney chapter. On 20 April 2006 he was shot dead in a laneway in East Sydney by Russell Oldham, the club’s sergeant-at-arms. He had just been expelled from the club by Monk. A few weeks later Oldham walked into the water at Balmoral and shot himself.
Hatfield is currently in jail as a result of his drug dealings: he has attempted suicide. Tom is an indemnified witness who was paid $200,000 a year for four years. He was also allowed to keep around three quarters of a million dollars that he made ‘honestly’ through gambling.
Aunty’s story shows how organised crime in Australia is big business and operates every day in every state of the country. In New South Wales it has flourished and grown despite a series of royal commissions – from Justice Woodward’s in the late 1970s, which investigated Donald Mackay’s murder and the New South Wales drug trade, to Justice Wood’s in the 1990s, which was meant, once and for all, to root out corruption inside the New South Wales police.
For all Woodward’s efforts, the Griffith marijuana growers who ordered Mackay’s murder stayed out of jail and in business. Inspired by the example of ‘Aussie Bob’ Trimbole, they transformed into a modern organised crime syndicate and soon established a national marijuana cultivation and distribution network. During the 1980s and 90s they moved into amphetamine production, and large scale cocaine and ecstasy importations. The Wood Royal Commission made explosive revelations about the ongoing corruption within the NSW police and gave detailed recommendations to the Labor Government and its new cleanskin commissioner, Peter Ryan.
But within twelve months many of Wood’s key recommendations had been shelved. The Carr government shifted the ‘law and order’ debate away from the hard-to-fix long-term problem of organised crime and corruption to the more tractable problems of street and household crime. They were assisted in 2000 by a nationwide heroin shortage. Another chance went begging and today organised crime in Australia is more audacious, more profitable, and more subversive than ever.
In 2008, in a report Organised Crime in Australia, the Australian Crime Commission estimated that ‘organised crime costs Australia in excess of $10 billion every year’. In June 2007, following a tip-off from overseas authorities, 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy (15 million tablets) was found in a shipping container in Port Melbourne. The seizure did not become public for more than a year. Despite the size of the seizure, it had no significant impact on the ecstasy trade in Australia: there was no shortage in the ecstasy market and the price of the drug did not increase. The seizure was just part of the cost of doing business.
Meanwhile, Aunty remains one of the country’s biggest cocaine importers, known to police but too clever to be caught. A former New South Wales detective, who not surprisingly prefers to remain anonymous, put it like this: “We know she is bringing the drugs in but we don’t know how, we don’t know who is helping her and we don’t know what she does with the money.”
*The story of “Aunty” is adapted from Smack Express: How Organised Crime Got Hooked on Drugs (Allen & Unwin $35), the bestselling book by former NSW Assistant Commissioner Clive Small and journalist Tom Gilling.
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