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Truck driver found not guilty over 400kg cocaine plot



A man accused of driving his truck from Melbourne to collect more than 400kg of pure cocaine in far-north Queensland has been found not guilty by a jury.

Osman El-Houli, 35, was arrested when police found his truck parked near Mareeba in July 2020 – the same day a plane loaded with drugs crashed in Papua New Guinea.

El-Houli told police a man called "The Professor" hired him for $10,000 to drive almost 3000km and collect bags of cash.

However, police alleged El-Houli had driven more than three days to pick up $141 million worth of cocaine from a plane set to arrive from PNG.

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The drugs never arrived after a plane bound for Mareeba crashed attempting to take off at a remote PNG air strip, the Crown says.

It is believed the operation was run by a syndicate consisting of a Colombian group and Melbourne mafia, the Brisbane Supreme Court jury was told.

Defence barrister Tony Kimmins said the courier for a prior "black flight" from PNG was in custody in July 2020.

He suggested the syndicate hired a "dupe" courier in 2020, a cleanskin who would not raise suspicion at COVID-restricted border controls.

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El-Houli was a devout Muslim of good character who hated drugs and would not "sell his soul" to be a cocaine courier, Kimmins said.

El-Houli told police he had been hired for "a lousy $10,000" by someone called The Professor to drop off plasterboard in Queensland, the court heard.

However, he said en route he was given a different task.

El-Houli said he was told he would be picking up "bags of cash", putting them in concealments cut into the plasterboard in his truck then returning to Melbourne.

Crown prosecutor Daniel Caruana said he would have known "deep down" that drugs were involved after being given an encrypted phone for a last-minute interstate trip transporting bags in concealments.

The jury took about four hours to find El-Houli not guilty of attempting to possess an unlawfully imported border-controlled drug.

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