The Northern Rivers' colourful history with cocaine
UPDATE, THURSDAY 10.45AM: THE NORTHERN Rivers has a colourful history when it comes to cocaine busts.
Yesterday a 61-year-old Lismore man was arrested for something never before seen by police - manufacturing the drug in his own home.
Other cocaine-related arrests in the Northern Rivers have usually involved the breaking up of small drug rings usually also involved in the distribution of other 'party drugs' such as ecstasy.
But one case which stands out is an ill-fated scheme to import the drug by Ballina golf professional and former local club pro of 14 years Damien Webber.
Webber, a hitherto high-profile and respected local member of the North Coast community, was arrested in 2010 after police discovered 3kg of cocaine hidden in the engine of a golf buggy bound for Mullumbimby Golf Course, where he worked as an instructor.
The Australia Federal Police launched a sting operation to nab Webber after the cocaine-stash was found.
An AFP officer posed as an Australia Post worker to entice Webber to come and pick up the buggy as it was "leaking oil".
Police later raided Webber's Ballina home and discovered a stash of cash, cannabis, and cocaine.
Mr Webber later plead guilty to importing a commercial quantity of cocaine and was sentenced to 15 years in jail.
He will be eligible for parole in 2026.
Byron Shire seems to be our region's hotspot for cocaine busts, regularly showing up as the top regional area for cocaine arrests in NSW.
Much of this has been attributed to drug busts of tourists during music festivals, and Byron Bay's general image as a party town.
But these kind of incidents pale into comparison to what goes on north of the border.
Last year on the Gold Coast, Australian Federal Police led a raid which uncovered the largest stash of cocaine ever seized in Queensland, a whopping haul of 70kg worth $14 million on the street.
The drugs were seized during a raid on a luxury yacht moored at Coomera which was believed to have been involved in a trans-Pacific cocaine smuggling operation. Five men were arrested and charged, including one from the UK and one Estonian.
ORIGINAL: A WHIFF of Colombia has come to the Northern Rivers with the arrest of a 61-year-old man this afternoon over the manufacturing of cocaine from a local home.
Police originally raided the Lismore Heights clandestine lab in July last year, where a range of suspected drug manufacturing equipment was seized, but no charges were laid.
This week after more than six months of analysis, expert chemists were able to confirm the lab was indeed used to manufacture the drug.
Richmond Local Area Command crime manager Detective Inspector Cameron Lindsay said it was unprecedented.
"This was the first instance of a cocaine extraction method being employed at this time in this state," Insp Lindsay said.
"There was a large amount of chemical equipment involved.
"We needed to get some expert advice from a chemist in relation to what exactly was being produced.
"It's taken a period of time for them to examine the equipment that was being used and analyse the residue… and now we're in a position to place the matter before the court.
"We expect to be laying charges in relation to the manufacture of cocaine."