Friday, March 18, 2011

Humble fax led police to drug-dealing crime-fighter, court told

 Jodie Minus From: The Australian March 18, 2011 12:00AM

With all the hi-tech phone intercepts, listening devices and other surveillance at the Australian Federal Police's disposal, it was a simple low-tech fax machine that sparked their initial drug investigation into one-time crime fighter Mark Standen.

The fax machine, at the Tara Internet Cafe in Amsterdam, had come to the attention of Dutch and Australian police during a probe into international drug trafficking rings.

AFP agent Paul Watt told the jury at Mr Standen's NSW Supreme Court trial yesterday that drug syndicates in The Netherlands favoured the cafe's fax machine because it didn't print the time, date or location of when and where faxes were sent.

The syndicates' modus operandi involved sending faxes from the cafe purporting to be from food importers in India, allegedly to show that ensuing drug shipments were in fact legitimate food imports.

Police claim one such fictitious Indian company, MDL Food and Services, sent a fax to western Sydney-based food importer Bakhos Jalalaty on May 15, 2007, and when AFP officers learned of Mr Jalalaty's close link with Mr Standen -- then the assistant director of the NSW Crime Commission -- a taskforce was set up to investigate.

A week later, AFP agents began tapping the pair's phone calls and over the next few months added listening devices, fax and email intercepts and computer screen-grabs to surveillance.

Crown prosecutor Tim Game SC yesterday began presenting the results of that surveillance to the jury at Mr Standen's trial on charges of conspiring to import a substance to manufacture drugs, supplying pseudoephedrine and perverting the course of justice, which Mr Standen vigorously denies.

A listening device on Mr Standen's phone captured conversations between him and Mr Jalalaty at Plato's Cafe on Kent Street in Sydney, just 500m from the NSW Crime Commission's offices.

In phone conversations, the pair make cryptic references to "B52" and "Jenny", which the crown alleges were code-names for co-conspirator James Kinch, while Mr Standen is known as "2IC" and Mr Jalalaty is "CEO".

In court yesterday, Mr Standen laughed as the recordings were played and raised his eyebrows during phone-taps of Mr Jalalaty and his wife, Dianne Jalalaty, when they referred to their "little, short friend". Mr Jalalaty tells his wife Mr Standen has a "few issues . . . a wife who's mental . . . money problems".

The evidence covers over one year leading up to Standen's arrest on June 2, 2008, and will be examined over the 14-week trial.

The crown alleges Mr Standen, Mr Jalalaty and Mr Kinch conspired to import $120million worth of pseudoephadrine to Australia. The 300kg shipment was allegedly hidden in a shipping container of rice, which left Pakistan on March 31, 2008, and arrived in Sydney on April 26 that same year. The crown alleges Mr Standen, a former Customs official and AFP officer, used his inside knowledge to advise Mr Jalalaty and Mr Kinch on the best ways to avoid detection.

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