Comanchero boss deported from Turkey

·3-min read

Fugitive Comanchero boss Mark Buddle has faced court in Australia six years after fleeing the country over allegations he imported $40 million worth of drugs.

The 37-year-old was arrested by Australian Federal Police at Darwin airport on Wednesday, after being deported from Turkey a day earlier.

He remained under police guard amid security concerns as the Northern Territory Local Court granted an order for him to be extradited to Victoria.

Buddle is accused of importing more than 160kg of cocaine into Melbourne in May last year.

He is facing two charges of importing cocaine, which was estimated to have a street value of $40 million.

Each count carries a maximum of life imprisonment.

Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Nigel Ryan said Buddle allegedly used the ANOM app, which was set up by authorities to pose as a safe encryption messaging service for organised crime figures on the dark web.

Buddle listened to the court proceedings by telephone hook-up from a police station 20km south of Darwin, with both NT and AFP police officers present.

"Normally, of course, someone appearing in court would be either present in court or on the video from the prison, but the court has received information the police have some security concerns," Chief Judge Elizabeth Morris told Buddle as she confirmed he was on the line.

"That is why you're appearing via telephone from the Palmerston Watchhouse."

Buddle replied: "OK, yep, correct."

Commonwealth prosecutor Naomi Low said Buddle was the subject of a Victorian arrest warrant issued on July 3, with the AFP seeking to extradite him to Melbourne by August 10 to face the Magistrates Court.

"How come it is the 10th August? Today is the 3rd of August," Chief Judge Morris said.

"There are some security concerns ... the time is necessary to facilitate a safe transfer of Mr Buddle to Victoria," Ms Low replied.

"He was arrested overseas and returned to Australia as a result of deportation and this morning he was arrested by the AFP at the airport."

Defence lawyer Robert Welfare said he had been instructed not to oppose the extradition order.

Judge Morris ordered for Buddle to be held at the NT Correctional Facility in Holtze near Darwin until the AFP transfer him south to face court in Victoria on or before August 10.

"Mr Buddle I have made the order. You will be kept at the prison until arrangements are made for you to get down to Melbourne in custody," she said.

"No problem," he replied.

Earlier, Mr Ryan publicly revealed for the first time the existence of a transnational offshore organised crime taskforce, which had targeted Buddle.

"Australians who think they can hide offshore in perceived safe haven ... take this as a warning," he said.

"The AFP will be relentless in pursuing you, we are dedicated and we are focused."

The charges stem from Operation Ironside, which monitored communications on the encrypted network criminals thought was secure but was being monitored by the AFP and the FBI.

More than 250 people have been charged in Australia under the operation.

No charges have been brought in the US, where privacy laws prevented arrests.

Lawyers in South Australia, representing clients charged under Operation Ironside, have recently argued evidence obtained from the encrypted communications should be excluded.

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