Australia

‘The cocaine never existed’: Sydney socialites face court over drug bust

An eastern suburbs socialite was “seduced” into taking part in a multimillion-dollar cocaine plot that turned out to be an extraordinarily unusual police sting involving no real drugs whatsoever, a court has heard.Matthew James Doyle, Jared Raymond Hart and Raoul Kesby were arrested and charged in 2019 over their roles in a plot to import…

An eastern suburbs socialite was “seduced” into taking part in a multimillion-dollar cocaine plot that turned out to be an extraordinarily unusual police sting involving no real drugs whatsoever, a court has heard.

Matthew James Doyle, Jared Raymond Hart and Raoul Kesby were arrested and charged in 2019 over their roles in a plot to import a hefty amount of cocaine.

All three men pleaded guilty earlier this year in the case, which lawyers on both sides agreed was “unusual” during a sentencing hearing on Friday afternoon.

Large swathes of detail about what is alleged against the men and how they were caught have been suppressed from the public so as to protect people involved and not reveal the police methods used in the sting.

Doyle, now sporting a beard and dressed in prison greens, dialled in from Silverwater prison and listened intently during the hearing.

His prominent barrister, Phillip Boulten SC, repeatedly pointed out that the drugs never existed as he asked District Court Judge Penelope Hock to go easy on Doyle.

“This was a sting operation par excellence,” Mr Boulten told the court, “where there was never ever a chance that anyone was going to distribute the drugs.”

The amount that was to be shipped went from 300kg to 50kg and “that was fine” with Doyle, Mr Boulten said. “Indeed my client asked whether it could be 10,” he said.

The court heard that Doyle handed over $500,000 in two money drops prior to his arrest in a bid to secure the cocaine shipment.

Mr Boulten argued his client would never have entered the plot if he had not been “targeted and seduced by a very sophisticated approach”.

He became involved when he was in Las Vegas “literally trying to win money to pay a debt” that he didn’t believe was owed, Mr Boulten said.

“The fact of the matter is, he was not in the market and was not searching out opportunities when it was, as it were, very effectively presented to him,” Mr Boulten said.

“Although I accept that when the opportunity presented itself my client was willing and was easily seduced and remained so for quite a long time.”

The barrister said Doyle had hardly led an unblemished life, but was “very aware” of the wrongs he had committed and the harm he had caused.

He asked for leniency on the basis that Doyle has been unable to see his family, and in particular his young son, since March due to COVID-19 restricting prison visits.

Crown prosecutor Emma Blizard asked Judge Hock to consider Doyle’s own words when considering why he became involved.

“I’m not against it, I’m a businessman, you know, I like money, I love making people money,” Ms Blizard read aloud to the court.

Ultimately, she said, Doyle was acting to achieve a “very significant” financial reward.

He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment to the offence of supplying a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug.

Doyle was the main offender in the plot, the court heard. Kesby and Hart were also dialled into the hearing via AVL to hear each of their lawyers ask for leniency.

Raoul Kesby was involved in the scheme for one day, the court heard. His lawyer, David Dalton SC, said his client was remorseful and that his sister could attest to his “marked change in attitude” towards drugs since his arrest.

Evan James, acting for Hart, said his client had no criminal record and this was his first time in custody.

Judge Hock will sentence the men on September 4.

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