‘Drug plane’ takes off from southeast airport
A pilot charged with drug trafficking has flown from Redcliffe Airport in a plane that police seized last week, after $1 million in cash, guns and cannabis were allegedly found on board.
Acting Inspector Ken Rogers said police still planned to apply to confiscate the Piper Aerostar under proceeds of crime laws, but the plane was no longer restrained.
Townsville pilot Mark Nolan was granted bail in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Friday, after spending several days in custody, charged with drug trafficking.
The ex-soldier also was charged with receiving or obtaining property obtained from drug trafficking, possessing drugs and weapons charges.
He had to surrender his passport and weapons, live at a Townsville address and not approach an international departure point.
Police had opposed bail, fearing he may flee the jurisdiction, as he had previously flown to Papua New Guinea, the court heard.
The plane was seen leaving Redcliffe Airport around 6am on Tuesday and its departure was reported to the airport's reporting officer, after initial concerns that the departure was unscheduled.
"A big guy with tattoos walked in around 6am, unplugged the plane and just flew off,'' a witness said.
Acting Inspector Rogers said the pilot was in lawful possession of the plane as it was no longer restrained and he had been released on bail.
He said the plane was being flown to Townsville, with a stop in Bowen.
"He has a right to have the plane,'' Acting Insp Rogers said.
He said police had been aware that Nolan intended to fly the plane back to Townsville, but were not aware that he would be leaving as early as 6am.
Acting Insp Rogers said police were still working on the process of applying to confiscate the plane, alleging it was proceeds of crime.
Nolan was one of 14 people charged as a result of Operation Mugwort, including three arrested after the plane flown from Melbourne landed at Redcliffe Airport on December 14.
A search of the plane allegedly uncovered $1 million in cash and cannabis with a street value of $3.5 million, as well as guns, police said.
Search warrants were then carried out on houses and storage sheds across Brisbane's north and another $1.5 million in cash and a "substantial'' amount of cannabis were discovered.
The raids were part of Operation Mugwort, which has seen $8.5 million in cash, weapons, ammunition, cocaine and cannabis seized.
The court was told that Nolan was "a lesser player'' than others who had been charged with drug trafficking and other offences.
Nolan, who was a serving soldier for 16 years, has a home, a wife and children in Townsville.
Originally published as 'Drug plane' takes off from southeast airport