7 December 2022

Guilty verdict in trial over 300 kg of cocaine found in digger bound for Bungendore

| Albert McKnight
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A screengrab of the x-ray test that found 384 packages of cocaine in the excavator. Photo: Border Force.

A man who faced a trial over how almost 300 kg of cocaine was shipped to Australia in an excavator has been found guilty.

Jurors in the NSW District Court trial began deliberating on Tuesday (6 December), before returning to court after a couple of hours and finding Timothy John Engstrom guilty of a charge of attempting to possess a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.

Judge Gina O’Rouke then discharged the jury, revoked Engstrom’s bail, remanded him into custody and adjourned to 10 March, 2023, for sentencing.

The trial had begun in November, then jurors heard closing arguments this week.

The court heard the excavator had arrived in Port Kembla from South Africa in June 2019 and was scheduled to be delivered to Bungendore Landscape Supplies (BLS), which was run by Engstrom and his friend and business partner Adam Phillip Hunter.

When police intercepted and x-rayed it, they saw in its boom arm 384 packages that were found to contain 276 kg of cocaine.

Police replaced the drugs, sent the digger on to BLS’s premises on King Street, Bungendore, and it arrived on 14 July, 2019.

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Engstrom used an angle grinder to cut into the boom arm before sharing a “fist bump” with Hunter.

When Hunter started pulling out the packages, Engstrom gave him a bucket to put them into. Police raided the shed shortly afterwards and arrested the two.

Engstrom’s lawyers argued the critical question in the trial was whether the Crown had proved he did know drugs could be in the excavator.

They claimed Hunter lied when he told Engstrom the excavator didn’t contain drugs, “and Mr Engstrom believed him”.

According to transcripts of the case, Engstrom said, “Adam told me he had to get something out of the machine”.

“I said to him, ‘it’s not something stupid like heroin or something like that?’ He said, ‘No, no it’s not, it’s all good, don’t stress’,” Engstrom said.

Engstrom had replied, “That’s good because my father would never speak to me again”.

Adam Phillip Hunter

Adam Phillip Hunter has already been sentenced to about 13 years’ jail. Photo: LinkedIn.

He also said Hunter told him he didn’t have to be a part of anything, “simply access the arm then leave the rest to him”.

Crown Prosecutor Adam McGrath said Engstrom admitted cutting the hole into the arm but claimed he hadn’t seen what was inside the machine. He said his role was just to cut a hole and “then go and have a cup of tea”.

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Under questioning from Mr McGrath, Engstrom admitted he could have told Hunter “no”, could have asked him what was inside the machine and that he had “turned a blind eye”. But he maintained that he was unaware there was a risk that the contents could be drugs.

Hunter has already pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to import a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug over his role.

In September 2021, he was sentenced to 12 years and nine months’ jail, ending in 2032, with a non-parole period of eight years and three months, which means he is eligible to be released in October 2027.

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