22 November 2022

Pair busted at Braidwood drug lab during Black Summer fires handed jail sentences

| Albert McKnight
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items seized from drug lab

Police raided a drug lab at Harolds Cross, which is southwest of Braidwood, on 11 January 2020. Photo: NSW Police, Facebook.

A pair busted at a drug lab outside Braidwood during the Black Summer bushfires have been handed jail sentences for their roles in helping to cook up more than 31 kilograms of meth, which was possibly worth up to $159 million.

Luke Drever and Kevin Reilly both pleaded guilty to being knowingly involved in the manufacture of a large commercial quantity of methylamphetamine.

Earlier this year, the pair were convicted and Drever was sentenced to nine years and nine months’ jail while Reilly was sentenced to six years and nine months’ jail, according to a recently-released NSW District Court judgement.

Judge Robyn Tupman said a strike force had been created to investigate the manufacture of methylamphetamine and targetted a 40-hectare isolated property at Harolds Cross, which is about 30 kilometres south-west of Braidwood.

Police set up surveillance devices at the property in 2019, as they had found what Judge Tupman called a “relatively sophisticated” meth lab in a shed.

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On 9 January 2020, Drever flew from Adelaide to Canberra using a false name, while on the same day Reilly went to Bunnings at Fyshwick and bought a number of items to make drugs at the site.

Judge Tupman said Drever met him at the Bunnings carpark, then they travelled to the Harolds Cross property where their conversations were recorded on listening devices, including a discussion on the relative benefits of cooking or making meth in Australia compared to the cost of it being imported.

Police raided the property on 11 January 2020 and arrested both of them. They seized three jerry cans that contained about 31.9 kilograms of pure meth, which if sold on the street could be worth between $4 million and $159 million.

Judge Tupman accepted it was “an extensive drug manufacturing site”, had been running since before August 2019 and the enterprise did involve some other people.

But she accepted Drever’s version of events, that when police raided the property the cooking process had ended and he and Reilly were cleaning up and planning to leave.

She also accepted there was no evidence that either of the pair was going to have any more involvement with the drugs seized or be paid anything from the proceeds of further sales.

Judge Tupman said Drever was the cook and had the skills of a qualified chemical engineer. While Reilly did play a lesser role, she said he was involved for longer and had some involvement in setting up the lab.

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“This is a case in which there was clearly a much larger drug manufacturing syndicate based somewhere else, either in NSW or South Australia or elsewhere,” she said.

“Someone unknown had already set the property up with the necessary equipment in the cream shed by the time they both arrived on 9 January and there were other persons unknown who were going to collect the manufactured drugs and take them away for further use.”

Drever, a builder from Adelaide who was aged 40 when sentenced in May 2022, was given a six-year non-parole period which means he can apply for parole in January 2026.

Reilly, a 41-year-old house painter from Wollongong, must serve four years’ non-parole, and will be eligible for release in January 2024.

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