Ex-rugby league player in court for alleged drug trafficking in Australia

Sydney, Australia, May 19 (EFE).- Former Australian rugby league player Jamil Hopoate appeared Wednesday in a Sydney court for allegedly being involved in an attempt to import more than half a ton of cocaine to Australia.

Hopoate, 26, who played in the National Rugby League with the Brisbane Broncos until last year, was arrested Tuesday night with a woman accompanying him during a police operation in Sydney, New Wales State Police said in a Wednesday statement.

The player and two others have been charged with drug trafficking in connection with the stash of 514 kilograms of cocaine, valued on the black market at AUD 155 million ($121 million), originating from the United Kingdom.

The cache had been intercepted Saturday, but agents waited a few days to make the arrests.

On Wednesday, Hopoate’s lawyer, Greg James, said his client should not be blamed for drug crimes since police changed the cocaine shipment for other non-illicit material during the operation, according to local network ABC.

“For there to be possession of a substance prohibited under the law, he has to have the drug and he does not have it,” said James, adding that authorities do not have evidence or encrypted communications linking his client to the illicit shipment.

But Magistrate Philip Stewart rejected the request for provisional release of the rugby player, who will appear again in court in July. EFE


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