Australia’s most wanted fugitive ‘drug lord’ scowls in shackles as he is seen for the first time being brought back to Sydney under heavy police guard after he was found hiding in a truck in dramatic border arrest
- The 33-year-old was captured by police on the NSW-Queensland state border
- Mostafa Baluch was allegedly trying to flee the country from the Sunshine State
- He was found hidden inside a shipping container carried on the back of a truck
- He was extradited to NSW to face drug charges after a hearing on Thursday
- Appeared sullen as he was driven from Southport Watchhouse in handcuffs
An accused drug lord who was found hiding in the back of a truck during a dramatic border arrest has returned to Sydney in shackles after his brief stint as a fugitive.
Mostafa Baluch’s desperate bid for freedom ended when he was found hiding in a grey Mercedes in a shipping container at the Queensland/ NSW border on Wednesday morning.
Baluch – dubbed ‘Australia’s Pablo Escobar’ – allegedly went on the run from police for 16 days after cutting off his ankle monitor while on bail and sparking ‘one of the largest fugitive hunts in the country’.
He is accused of attempting to import more than 900kg shipment of cocaine into Australia with a street value of $270million.
The alleged kingpin appeared sullen as he was driven from the Southport Watchhouse in handcuffs after being extradited from Queensland to NSW.
Mostafa Baluch is seen leaving the Southport Watchhouse on the Gold Coast on Thursday. He has returned to Sydney in shackles after his brief stint as a fugitive
Baluch’s bid for freedom ended when he was found hiding in a grey Mercedes concealed in a shipping container being transported on the back of a truck
He is expected to face Sydney’s Central Local Court on Friday.
Before his arrest on Wednesday, he was last seen in Bayview on Sydney’s northern beaches on October 25, days after being granted bail.
He was released on strict conditions, including $4 million surety on his waterfront home at Bayview.
Queensland officers searched dozens of trucks in the days leading up to the arrest, zeroing in on the transport after noticing the container wasn’t properly secured.
As he is unvaccinated against Covid, Baluch remained in isolation for his extradition hearing on Thursday and listened to the proceedings by speakerphone.
The only words he said during the hearing were ‘yes, I can hear you’ when asked to confirm he was there, NCA NewsWire reported.
Lawyer Nicholas Andrews consented to the extradition application without objection, with Baluch expected to return to Sydney later in the day.
Baluch allegedly went on the run from police for 16 days after cutting off his ankle monitor while on bail
The fugitive had been on the run from police when he was nabbed during a botched bid to cross the Queensland border on Wednesday morning
Baluch will also face charges over his alleged breach of bail.
The man who was driving the truck in which Baluch was found – who police say owns a transport company – was also arrested.
The 46-year-old has been charged with doing an act intended to pervert the course of justice and denied bail.
A photo released by police shows Baluch dressed in a T-shirt and shorts sitting on the side of the road moments after his dramatic arrest.
Baluch pictured outside his home in Mona Vale on October 25, just hours before the alleged international drug lord disappeared
Organised Crime Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Rob Crichlow paid tribute to investigators who have spent the last two weeks working around the clock to track Baluch down.
‘He had a lot of help but there were a lot of people against him,’ Det Supt Crichlow said.
‘The community have turned the criminal element against him. He attracted a lot of attention and it’s caused impacts for people he knows.
‘We will look at everybody he knows and everybody he talks to and we have and we’ve achieved excellent results. We’ll continue with that.’
Baluch was found in the boot of this grey Mercedes (pictured) in a shipping container on the back of a truck crossing the NSW/Queensland border at Tweed Heads
Police left no stone unturned in their quest to ensure Baluch didn’t flee the country.
‘We didn’t want to leave any opportunities for this man to flee,’ Det Supt Crichlow said.
‘We knew people overseas were waiting for him to come and join with them. That was a great concern. As the commander said, high-end targets live overseas and that causes enormous harm to Australians. So we were determined he wouldn’t leave Australia.’
HOW THE COPS CAUGHT BALUCH
2020: Mostafa Baluch was arrested as part of an investigation into an alleged organised crime sting plotting to supply three tonnes of cocaine in NSW. Detectives started the investigation after receiving a tip about a person gambling a huge amount of money at the Star Casino. The betting was flagged as potential money laundering and kicked off an investigation that eventually became focused on drug trafficking.
June 2021: Charged with drug offences when his Bayview home on Sydney’s northern beaches was raided
October 22, 2021: He was granted bail on several conditions and was forced to wear an ankle monitor
October 25, 2021: The tracking device stopped working and police began urgently tracking down the fugitive
October 26, 2021: Baluch was due to face court but didn’t arrive. Police believe they spotted Baluch in the backseat of a black Range Rover as it travelled east on the M4 at Croydon.
November 4: Police raid homes in Potts Hill and Yagoona in Sydney’s south-west in their manhunt for Baluch. They seized more than $250,000 cash, about 200 grams of cocaine, 485 grams of an unknown substance, mobile phones, and an electronic money counter
November 5: Organised Crime Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Rob Crichlow says police are closing in on the hunt to find the fugitive and believed he was still in NSW.
November 10: Baluch is captured by police on the NSW/Queensland border when police intercepted a truck. Baluch was found hiding in the boot of a Mercedes SUV in a shipping container on the back of the truck.