Judge rejects bid for electronic bail for cocaine importation accused

Police allege 50kg of cocaine worth millions of dollars was imported or attempted to be imported....
Police allege 50kg of cocaine worth millions of dollars was imported or attempted to be imported. Photo: George Heard
A bid to get a Colombian national released on electronically monitored bail after more than two months in custody on cocaine importation charges has been rejected by a Christchurch District Court judge.

Nine people were arrested in the police swoops in mid-November at the end of a 10-month investigation by the police's National Organised Crime Unit and Customs.

Bail was allowed for five of them but the Crown opposed bail in four cases and all remain in custody after the latest hearing.

Felipe Montoya-Ospina, a 34-year-old worker on a large dairy farm at Hororata, sought bail at a hearing before Judge Brian Callaghan. Ethan Huda appeared as defence counsel and Aaron Harvey appeared for the Crown.

Judge Callaghan heard submissions on the bail application, but the Bail Act imposes restrictions on what may be reported at that type of hearing.

Montoya-Ospina faces eight charges, including participating in an organised criminal group, importing and attempting to import cocaine, and two charges of supplying cocaine.

He pleaded not guilty to all charges at his first appearance and elected trial by jury.

Eight of those charged have now pleaded not guilty and are remanded to a Crown case review hearing on February 24. The remaining Christchurch man charged has until mid-February to enter pleas to charges of money laundering and being a member of an organised criminal group.

The police arrested five who were Colombian nationals, working on Canterbury farms on valid work visas.

At least 50kg of cocaine was seized overseas and in New Zealand during Operation Mist, and more than 60 charges were laid.

- By David Clarkson



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