Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says magistrate got millionaire restaurateur bail wrong
The NSW Police Commissioner says the magistrate who released millionaire fugitive Mostafa Baluch on bail “got it wrong”.
Mr Baluch, 33, who has been charged with financing a major drug importation syndicate, was granted bail on strict conditions by Magistrate Michael Crompton at Sydney Central Local Court last Thursday.
The conditions included that he put up a $4m surety, report to Mona Vale police station daily, not communicate with any witness, not drink alcohol or take drugs, not use encrypted devices and be fitted with an ankle monitor.
But Mr Baluch cut of his ankle monitor and fled on Monday night ahead of another bail hearing in the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday morning.
Commissioner Mick Fuller said on Thursday morning releasing Mr Baluch on bail was the wrong decision.
“I’ve been reluctant to criticise magistrates and judges because they have a tough job but clearly he got this one wrong,” he told 2GB radio.
The millionaire Sydney restaurateur hasn’t been sighted since he skipped bail on Monday night, but police have confirmed a luxury car had been seized as part of the investigation.
Police seized a black Range Rover with Queensland registration plates on Wednesday they believe may have been used as a getaway car by fugitive Mostafa Baluch.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Mr Baluch, 33, over breaches of bail after he fled Sydney’s northern beaches on Monday night.
Mr Baluch owned Northbridge’s Cervo restaurant before it closed and is alleged to have been the financier behind a 900kg shipment of cocaine into Australia that had a street value of $270m.
The businessman was last seen by his family at his multimillion-dollar waterfront home on Pittwater Rd in Bayview just before 10.30pm on Monday.
NSW Police was then alerted to his ankle tag being tampered with, but by the time police arrived at the location Mr Baluch was gone.
Mr Baluch’s sister, Wagma Baluch, has even claimed that her brother may have been kidnapped.
But detectives have released images of Mr Baluch captured at Mona Vale about 5.30pm on Monday and a black Range Rover with Queensland registration 861CU3 he is believed to have travelled in.
They have appealed for dashcam or information on the Range Rover’s movements between Monday and 7.20am on Wednesday, which is when the car was located and seized by police.
Police have revealed Mr Baluch may have been travelling eastbound in the Range Rover with at least two other men on the M4 near Croydon about 2.30am on Tuesday.
Mr Baluch was last seen wearing a white Nike T-shirt, black Nike shorts and white Nike sneakers.
Mr Fuller said it could take years to track Mr Baluch down.
“As we know with some of the other ‘great’ Australian drug-type organised crime people they can be difficult to track and some have taken years,” he said.
“These type of organised criminals, they have a deep reach, if you have the ability to get 900kg of cocaine out of South America then you have a pretty extensive criminal reach.
“We can’t underestimate his ability to evade law enforcement.”
Mr Fuller also declared he would make chasing up the $4m surety a priority.
“If they (the family) don’t have to hand over that $4m it will be an absolute injustice and it’s certainly one that I will be following because the cost of this in terms of not just arresting him but finding him will well exceed $4m, I’ll tell you that,” he said.
A new theory emerged on Wednesday that Mr Baluch may have fled Sydney on a private jet that departed Bankstown Airport, but Mr Fuller said that didn’t appear to be correct.
NSW Police has engaged the Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force in the “massive” manhunt to conduct “extensive searches” at airports and ports, along with other transport routes across NSW and Australia.
Mr Fuller said other intelligence indicated that Mr Baluch could be travelling south towards Victoria.
“We’re working with the owners of Bankstown Airport in terms of the movements of the different planes and jets,” Mr Fuller said.
“We haven’t discounted anything at the moment and we’re working on two or three different leads and we haven’t closed that off entirely.
“We’re receiving different reports at the moment in terms of his movements and police are investigating this matter as an absolute priority.
“There are cameras right across NSW and we can access those so we will continue to investigate this 24/7.”
NSW Police fear Mr Baluch may have left NSW and could be attempting to flee overseas, with Detective Superintendent Rob Critchlow warning Mr Baluch’s wider circle of friends that they would be under scrutiny from police.
“It is a safe bet that considering the matters he’s facing and the strength of the evidence that has been amassed that he will seek to leave at least the jurisdiction of NSW and probably Australia,” Mr Critchlow said.
Mr Baluch, who was charged with multiple serious offences in June, including conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if found guilty.
“Mostafa is described as being of Mediterranean/Middle Eastern appearance, about 180cm tall, of a muscular build, with black hair, brown eyes and unshaven,” NSW Police said in a statement.
“Anyone who sights Mostafa, or who has information about his whereabouts, is urged not to approach him and to call triple-0 immediately.”
Originally published as Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says magistrate got millionaire restaurateur bail wrong
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