Court hears of police bungle in meth trafficking investigation

A cop has recounted the moment police officers stormed a house past Lego and children’s toys to arrest a man now accused of being a meth trafficking ringleader.

Detective Stuart Burnham told the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday that when they arrested Yining Tao on June 30 last year his two young children, wife, wife’s teenage brother and the children’s grandmother were present.

Mr Tao was one of 15 people charged with commercial drug trafficking and related offences after police dramatically executed simultaneous warrants across Victoria and Tasmania.

Police say he is one of three ringleaders of the alleged meth manufacturing syndicate along with Xiaoyan Ning, who was extradited from Hobart to face court, and Ms Ning’s partner Eng Beng Koh.

Detective Burnham told the court in a committal hearing that three cardboard tins of chemicals were found in the house, including iodine and phosphorus, which are ingredients used to make methamphetamine.

But he agreed with Mr Tao’s lawyer, Diana Price, that Mr Tao had a website to sell chemicals in Australia and a friend thought the chemicals were used on his chicken farms, not for illegal purposes.

The court was also told through Ms Price’s questioning that a glitch in Victoria Police’s telephone intercept system meant that conversations between Mr Tao and his lawyers, which are legally protected by lawyer-client privilege, were heard through phone taps by investigators.

At least four conversations between Mr Tao and his lawyer were intercepted, she said.

She asked Detective Burnham if those conversations helped him prepare for his police interview with Mr Tao.

“I don’t believe so, but I’m not 100 per cent sure on that,” he said.

“I think that information wasn’t a big part of the investigation or anything like that.”

The Supreme Court has previously been told in bail applications for alleged syndicate members that the ring is alleged to have manufactured and trafficked methamphetamine, commonly known as ice.

The are alleged to have laundered the profits through businesses including chicken farms and a labour hire company.

It is alleged the syndicate used vulnerable persons working on the farms to “house sit” the clandestine laboratories.

When police pounced on the alleged meth ring, 23 search warrants at properties across Victoria and Tasmania turned up scientific glassware and equipment, rotary evaporators (commonly used in the manufacture of ice), more than 25kg of ice, hydroponic equipment, cannabis, large amounts of cash, mobile phones, vehicles, and jewellery, the court was told.

The committal hearing continues.

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Author: Shirley