CHIANGRAI TIMES – Robert Gee an alleged kingpin of one of SA’s largest drug-trafficking networks has skipped bail and is hiding in Thailand.
Robert Gordon Gee, 54, fled Australia after learning one of his co-accused had provided police with a statement detailing his alleged role in the syndicate.
While Gee was on bail awaiting trial on 11 drug charges, including taking part in the sale of cocaine and methamphetamines, his bail conditions did not include surrendering his passport.
Gee, along with co-accused Mark Norman Millard, Leslie Graham Richards and Adrian Jeremy Brown, were arrested in 2006 as part of a Drug Investigation Branch operation codenamed Crunch. Cocaine and methamphetamines worth $1.2 million and $264,000 in cash was also seized.
District Court documents reveal while awaiting trial Gee applied for and was granted variations to his bail conditions to travel interstate on several occasions and overseas to Fiji, Indonesia and Thailand.
Before he went overseas in the past, he lodged a $10,000 surety with the court and returned each time. He was granted variations to travel to Fiji in August, 2007, to Indonesia in April, 2009, and to Thailand in June, 2010.
His last bail variation was in January last year when he was allowed to travel to Anna Bay, in NSW.
Gee’s bail was revoked on July 8 when he failed to attend a pre-trial hearing in the District Court. His then lawyer, Jon Lister, told the court he had not spoken to Gee prior to that hearing and did not know his whereabouts. On Friday, Mr Lister said that position had not changed.
In August, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions applied to the District Court to proceed with Gee’s trial in his absence. Judge Peter Brebner refused the application, stating the risk of a wrongful conviction was too high. Further directions hearings – which have been suppressed – were held in November and, on November 30, in an in-chambers hearing Judge Brebner issued an arrest warrant for Gee.
Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Pallaras, QC, declined to comment on Gee’s bail conditions because the matter was still before the court.
In the Supreme Court on Tuesday, one of Gee’s co-accused, Leslie Graham Richards, was granted leave to appeal against his sentence. Last December he was given an 11-year, two-month sentence with a non-parole period of seven years.
His lawyer, Nicholas Healy, told Justice Anne Vanstone the sentence was manifestly excessive and did not reflect his client’s level of co-operation. He said Richards had provided a 24-page statement to police that outlined not only his involvement “but also that of Millard and a detailed description of Mr Gee’s extensive operation” and that Richards had been negotiating with the Crown to testify against Gee. “If and when Mr Gee is arrested and indeed extradited from Thailand, which I believe is where he is, Mr Richards remains willing to give that evidence,” Mr Healy said.
Justice Vanstone granted Richards leave to appeal and will hear further submissions on April 4. Millard is serving a 15-year sentence with a non-parole period of eight years for his role in the operation. Last December Brown was convicted and given a suspended two-year and six month sentence over his role in the syndicate.
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