A Canberra cafe owner, accused of running a major drug operation to fuel a flamboyant lifestyle played out on Facebook and Instagram, has been found guilty of multiple offences.
Brendan Leigh Baker, 27, was on Tuesday found guilty of 11 charges in the ACT Supreme Court, from attempting to import drugs from China, to trafficking and dealing in the proceeds of crime after large wads of cash were found in two separate searches of his house.
The jury was unable to reach a decision on a 12th charge of drug importing.
Commonwealth prosecutor Darren Renton pointed to the social media images of Baker showing off his expensive cars and lavish lifestyle.
“His lawful income was insufficient to support that lifestyle,” he told the court.
But Baker’s lawyer Astrid Haban-Beer rejected that, saying her client may have owned a Mercedes but he also lived in a share house like many other people his age.
“He’s not on trial for being part of the selfie generation, or his prolific use of hashtags,” she said.
Though Ms Haban-Beer did acknowledge the evidence in the case suggested there were grounds for suspicion.
“I’m not suggesting Baker is a golden boy … he’s not Australian of the year,” she said.
But she warned Baker was not on trial for his friends or his taste.
The key witness in the case was police informer and self-confessed drug dealer Paul McCauley, who gained immunity from prosecution for his part in the alleged crimes in exchange for giving evidence.
Mr McCauley wove a colourful tale, including the pair’s bid to import a synthetic version of MDMA from China, which ended when the drug “cook” was blown up in his garage.
On another occasion he told the court Baker delivered a kilogram of MDMA to him in a pink Barbie lunchbox.
Mr McCauley had helped police by wearing a recording device when he met Baker.
Informant’s evidence was ‘unreliable’: defence
Ms Haban-Beer took aim at the prosecution case, saying it was “like a Pro Hart painting with paint splashed everywhere” leaving the jury to join it up.
And she was particularly scathing of the key witness against Baker, telling the jury he was a drug dealer with a strong motive to lie to avoid the criminal justice process himself.
“Paul McCauley is unreliable,” she said.
“I suggest to you you must have doubts about Mr McCauley’s evidence.”
But the prosecution urged the jury to believe the witness, saying police had approached him and would not have offered him a deal if they did not believe his information.
Justice John Burns told the jury the evidence from the police informer was critical to the case.
“If you don’t accept the evidence of Mr McCauley then you cannot convict the accused,” he said.
It took just over two days for the jury to find Baker guilty of 11 charges.
He is due to be sentenced in August.