The man accused of piloting a plane packed with drugs and cash from Melbourne to Redcliffe was an Australian soldier for 16 years.
The man accused of piloting a plane packed with drugs and cash from Melbourne to Redcliffe was an Australian soldier for 16 years.

Soldier ‘piloted plane’ packed with cash and drugs

A Queensland man accused of piloting a plane "laden with drugs and cash" into Redcliffe was an Australian soldier for 16 years.

Townsville's Mark Nolan faced Brisbane Magistrates Court today after police allegedly uncovered a huge haul of cash, guns and drugs when they intercepted a light plane that flew from Melbourne into Redcliffe Airport on Monday.

Nolan was one of three men arrested on the tarmac after detectives boarded the Piper Aerostar following an 18 month investigation into an alleged drugs syndicate. Eleven others were also charged.

Police seized $1.5 million in cash from the plane that was flown from Melbourne to Redcliffe Airport.
Police seized $1.5 million in cash from the plane that was flown from Melbourne to Redcliffe Airport.

The officers allegedly uncovered $1 million in cash and a stash of cannabis with a $3.5 million street value along with weapons on board.

Nolan has been charged with drug trafficking, receiving or obtaining property obtained from drug trafficking, possessing drugs and weapons charges.

This morning he applied for bail which was opposed by police with fears he may flee the jurisdiction.

The court heard he had previously flown to Papua New Guinea.

"The allegations are that he was a pilot, the plane was flown from Melbourne laden with drugs and cash and it's a lot of drugs and a lot of cash," police prosecutor Snr Sgt Mark Gorton said.

" And that the syndicate had been operating for quite a long time and one of the concerns that investigators have is that the defendant has the means to escape the jurisdiction."

 

Cannabis with an estimated $3.5 million street value was found on the plane.
Cannabis with an estimated $3.5 million street value was found on the plane.

 

 

The weapons seized by police.
The weapons seized by police.

 

Nolan's barrister William Brown, instructed by CIF Lawyers, said his client was not allegedly a main instigator and his involvement was at the lower end.

"My submission would be that Mr Nolan's involvement in the offence is that he is the pilot and nothing more than the pilot," he said.

Magistrate Judith Daley asked if this was correct and Snr Sgt Gorton confirmed he was a "lesser player than the others".

Mr Brown said his client was not a flight risk given his ties to the community in Townsville where he owns a home and was willing to surrender his passport.

"He's not going anywhere … simply because of the wife and the children," he said.

Police had asked a surety be put up if bail was granted however Mr Brown said his client was of limited means.

 

 

Cash and marijuana were allegedly found hidden in a light plane that arrived at Redcliffe Airport, north of Brisbane, from Melbourne on Monday. Picture: Supplied / QPS
Cash and marijuana were allegedly found hidden in a light plane that arrived at Redcliffe Airport, north of Brisbane, from Melbourne on Monday. Picture: Supplied / QPS

 

 

"Mr Nolan's financial situation is not particularly prosperous at all in all seriousness, he was a serving soldier for 16 years and he has some superannuation … and he's ahead on his mortgage on the house. And that's basically about it," he said.

Several of his co-offenders had posted large sureties to be granted bail.

Magistrate Daley said the charges were serious and Nolan could face significant jail time if found guilty however she granted bail on a number of conditions but did not require a surety.

The conditions included surrendering his passport and weapons.

The matter was adjourned to February 1.

Originally published as Soldier, family man 'piloted plane' packed with cash and drugs


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