Albion Park airport drug raid: pilot faces court

Bernhard Stevermuer outside Port Kembla Court on Wednesday.
Bernhard Stevermuer outside Port Kembla Court on Wednesday.

Drugs, cash, a mystery plane and an organised criminal syndicate - it sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie.

But the dramatic allegations before Port Kembla Local Court on Wednesday were very real for Bernhard Stevermuer.

The 42-year-old Fairy Meadow man appeared briefly before Magistrate Susan McGowan seeking changes to bail conditions imposed following his arrest on July 8.

He is accused of dealing with $70,000 in Australian cash suspected of being the proceeds of crime, and also participating in a highly organised drug manufacture, supply and fraud syndicate.

The charges stem from a raid carried out by Australian Federal Police and NSW Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad on a plane at Illawarra Regional Airport last month.

Investigators established the criminal syndicate was run by two men who are yet to face court over the matter and who they say are ‘‘responsible for orchestrating an established, sophisticated well-respected drug manufacture and distribution network operating throughout southwest Sydney,’’ according to the police facts. 

The syndicate allegedly used Stevermuer and a finance company to purchase an eight-seater plane, which was then flown from the US to a number of locations before arriving in Australia.

Defence solicitor Mark Savic said his client was finding the reporting conditions ‘‘onerous’’ and asked he only be required to report to police one day a week instead of three.

He said Stevermuer often travelled to isolated areas as part of his work as a pilot which made reporting difficult.

He also sought to change a condition Stevermuer not approach any airports.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Sean Thackray said the charges were extremely serious with the likelihood of a custodial sentence should Stevermuer be found guilty.

‘‘We’re talking about the organisation of a plane to import a large amount of a substance .... to the value of $9 million,’’ Sgt Thackray said.

He said it was not alleged Stevermuer was the main instigator, however the amount of property involved was a serious concern.

Magistrate Susan McGowan did not alter the 42-year-old’s reporting days.

‘‘It’s a risk, and the risk at the moment is being mitigated by the requirements on (Stevermuer) to report three days,’’ she said.

A condition preventing him from approaching domestic airports was removed, however he must maintain a distance of 500 metres from international airports.

Outside court Mr Savic said his client would vigorously fight the charges.

The matter was adjourned to September 17.

This story Albion Park airport drug raid: pilot faces court first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.