Monday, October 26, 2020

Former crown prosecutor Roger Griffith accused of drug trafficking, money laundering

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A former solicitor and crown prosecutor accused of being involved in a crime syndicate allegedly helped the organisation’s attempts to move into wholesale drug dealing.

Former Cairns Department of Public Prosecutions boss Roger Griffith faced a two-day committal hearing in Cairns Magistrates Court, charged with two counts each of drug trafficking and perverting the course of justice and one count each of burglary and money laundering.

Police prosecutors allege Mr Griffith was involved in a major crime syndicate while acting as a defence barrister for known crime figures, and gave syndicate members information on how to avoid detection by police.

Senior Sergeant Maynard Marcum also accused Mr Griffith of being involved in attempts to scale-up the drug syndicate’s operation.

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“Roger Griffith was involved in an attempt to wholesale the cannabis operation,” he told the court.

“And it is our submission that he continued that level of involvement in the methylamphetamine operation.”

During one phone tap, a syndicate member is alleged to have told another who had been arrested near Brisbane — allegedly in possession of half-a-kilogram of methylamphetamine — that if he took the rap, Mr Griffith would look after him.

The prosecution further alleged that the arrested syndicate member was offered $100,000 as part of the deal and that Mr Griffith was privy to the negotiation.

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The court heard, Mr Griffith accepted $10,000 cash from a syndicate member as part of a deal to secure bail within four days of any member of the syndicate caught with drugs.

In Mr Griffith’s defence, counsel Stephen Zillman said it was “ludicrous” to suggest Mr Griffith was involved in ice dealing and argued it was usual for a lawyer to represent multiple defendants charged in the same police operation.

Carrying ‘a bag full of cash’

Police prosecutor Megan Howard, who worked with Mr Griffith when he served as a crown prosecutor, told the court he had shown her a bag containing around $20,000 in cash outside the Cairns police station in late 2017.

He told her the money had been paid to him by clients, the court heard.

Mr Zillman reiterated to Ms Howard and the court that his client had been open about the source of the money.

“He told you the money represented client fees,” he said.

Key to the prosecution’s case is evidence provided by witness John Benjamin who alleged Mr Griffith was involved with drug trafficking.

Mr Benjamin was himself charged with drug trafficking in early 2017.

Mr Zillman questioned Mr Benjamin’s motives, arguing that Detective Senior Constable Trent Odmark had advised him before his formal interview about the benefits of cooperating with police.

“So the real benefit attached to Mr Benjamin providing you with information was going to be a merciful judge?” Mr Zillman asked.

“That was going to be the carrot … the incentive.”

Detective Senior Constable Odmark said he did not think carrot was the right term.

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“Information for a reduction in his sentence, yes,” Detective Senior Constable Odmark replied.

Prosecutor Senior Sergeant Maynard Marcum submitted 58 witness statements to the court on Wednesday, along with 114 exhibits of evidence.

Mr Zillman immediately asked Magistrate Catherine Benson to take into account that some information contained in those statements was inadmissible in court.

Magistrate Benson today adjourned the case to consider the evidence, and is expected to deliver her decision in March.

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