Drug plane accused missing for a year

Liz Hobday
·2-min read

One of the men charged with trying to fly a quarter of a tonne of methamphetamine into Australia has been on the run from authorities for more than a year.

Jim Soukoulis of South Melbourne has not reported to police since November 2019, and there is an active warrant out for his arrest.

Soukoulis had posted a $900,000 bail security, including $600,00 against his mother's home, before he disappeared.

His co-accused, Hugh John Gorman and Peter Romeo Caluzzi, faced a plea hearing in the County Court in Melbourne on Monday.

The court heard the trio planned to use a Cessna P210 Silver Eagle light aircraft to import 255kg of methamphetamine from California to Australia in 2017.

Gorman, who has a pilot's licence, travelled to the US and bought a plane in California, for $US620,000.

He modified the plane to hide the drugs, and add an extra fuel tank for the trip to Australia.

Gorman also bought a large amount of methamphetamine, which he kept in suitcases at a storage unit.

But in June 2017 US Drug Enforcement Administration agents searched the unit and found the drugs.

The court heard Gorman and Caluzzi had been using encrypted Blackberries to communicate during the drug operation, but the Australian Federal Police managed to intercept them.

Caluzzi sent a Blackberry message to Gorman, using a Freemason code to check his identity.

"How old is your Grandmother?" Caluzzi texted him.

But the AFP had seized the phone, and responded with the answer to the code - the location of Gorman's Freemason Lodge.

AFP investigators then imitated Gorman in a string of messages, promising to leave the drugs in a shed for others to collect, telling Caluzzi: "I don't want to go to jail for the rest of my life".

There is a warrant for Soukoulis' arrest, while Gorman and Caluzzi will return to court at a later date.