NSW’s top cop has rubbished claims that Sydney restaurateur turned alleged fugitive Mostafa Baluch was kidnapped and warned the search for him was going to cost millions of dollars.
Mr Baluch, 33, who owned Northbridge’s Cervo restaurant before it closed, is alleged to have been the financier behind a 900kg shipment of cocaine into Australia that had a street value of $270m.
Police believe the millionaire hospitality figure, who is now the subject of a massive manhunt, may have fled Sydney on a private jet after he allegedly cut off his ankle monitor while on bail.
Earlier this week, The Australian newspaper reported claims from two of Mr Baluch’s relatives, including his sister, that he might have been kidnapped.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller on Friday dismissed this theory as “absolute rubbish”.
“And I’m on record saying that this investigation and the subsequent search will cost multiple millions and millions of dollars,” he told a budget estimates hearing.
Mr Fuller said the NSW government should seek the $4m surety that Mr Baluch put up as one of his strict bail conditions.
Mr Baluch had been in custody since June but was granted bail last Thursday against police advice.
The alleged drug kingpin has been missing since Monday night and police believe he may have flown out of Sydney from Bankstown Airport.
Mr Fuller said on Friday that Mr Baluch’s whereabouts were still unknown and police couldn’t “definitively say” if he had left the country.
Speaking at the hearing, NSW Police Minister David Elliott reiterated his disappointment in the magistrate’s decision to grant Mr Baluch bail.
“I’m disappointed, because the magistrate didn’t heed the police’s concerns about him being a flight risk. And as a result, 72 hours later, he is no longer in custody,” he said.
Early last year NSW Police began investigating an alleged international organised crime syndicate involved in the importation of drugs across Australia, North America and South America.
A tip-off from the NSW Police led to the US Navy seizing 870kg of cocaine off the Colombian coast and the United States Coast Guard seizing a further 900kg in a second ship off Ecuador.
Police allege the conspirators planned to supply 3000kg of cocaine – including the 1770kg that was seized off South America — and Mr Baluch was the sole financier of the shipment seized off Ecuador.