Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Racehorse owner Damion Flower pleads guilty to smuggling large quantities of cocaine


Racehorse owner Damion Flower has pleaded guilty to two charges for his role in a syndicate smuggling commercial quantities of cocaine through Sydney Airport.

Flower, the 48-year-old part owner of champion stallion Snitzel, was arrested in May 2019 along with Qantas baggage handler To’or’o “John” Mafiti for importing cocaine from South Africa hidden in the holds of commercial flights.

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Flower had maintained his innocence until, just as his trial was due to begin, the matter was resolved with prosecutors, and he pleaded guilty to one count of importing a commercial quantity of prohibited drugs and one count of dealing with the proceeds of crime.

The prominent racing identity, who worked as a baggage handler between 2000 and 2004, had previously faced three counts of importing a commercial quantity of prohibited drugs and two counts of dealing with the proceeds of crime.

Arraigned in the Downing Centre District Court on Monday, wearing a black suit and tie, Flower entered a guilty plea on the charge of importing commercial quantities of cocaine between June 2016 and May 2019.

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He also entered a guilty plea on one count of dealing with the proceeds of crime equal to or greater than $100,000 in May of that year in Moorebank, where the Flower family lived.

The charges are related to 12 shipments of cocaine that brought about 225 kilograms of the illicit drug into Sydney.

The court heard on Monday that Flower, who has been in custody since his arrest, had signed an agreed set of facts in regard to his offending.

Police had alleged Flower and Mafiti communicated by mobile phone and used racing and football terminology as code for details about cocaine shipments.

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Flower’s arrest shocked the Australian racing industry and prominent figures who have owned horses with him.

Some of his co-owners have included broadcaster Alan Jones, advertising man John Singleton, racing identity Nick Vass and rugby league legend Phil Gould. There is no suggestion any of the men knew anything of his criminal activities.

Champion sprinter Snitzel became Australia’s leading sire, costing $220,000 per service.

Flower and his wife Camilla amassed significant wealth, spending millions on yearlings and $10 million on real estate in recent years.

Flower was one of the first to sign up to racing’s most elite club, paying $1.8 million over three years for one of the 12 slots in The Everest race. Racing NSW is now deciding how Flower’s slot in the lucrative race will be sold.

Since his arrest, Flower has been hit with an unexplained wealth order and many of his assets – including vehicles, real estate across the country and shares in horses – have been seized by authorities.

Mafiti has already pleaded guilty over his role in importing the cocaine over three years and dealing in the proceeds of crime.

Flower and Mafiti will be sentenced together in September.


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