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Alleged transnational crime boss may eventually have to be granted bail, Victorian court of appeal says

<span>Photograph: Dave Hunt/AAP</span>
Photograph: Dave Hunt/AAP

The Victorian court of appeal has expressed concern that the alleged head of a transnational organised crime syndicate could spend five years in custody before facing trial, saying that he may eventually have to be granted bail despite concerns that he poses a flight risk.

Danny Zayneh is charged with importation and trafficking of significant quantities of drugs, dealing with proceeds of crime and possessing a handgun without a licence after his alleged offending was uncovered as part of the ANoM investigation.

The prosecution alleges Zayneh is the Australian head of a transnational organised crime syndicate that used the encrypted platform ANoM to conspire to import and traffic commercial quantities of illegal drugs that had a wholesale value between $186m and $700m.

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Zayneh, 39, has applied for bail three times since being charged in June 2021, and appealed against the most recent decision to deny him bail, made in July 2023, to the court of appeal.

Court of appeal justices Kristen Walker, Lesley Taylor and Christopher Boyce denied his application on Monday, but said the prosecution must do all it could to bring the matter to trial as quickly as possible.

“It is appropriate to record our concern about the potential delay in this case … although we found no error in the judge’s decision, the courts will not simply tolerate delay of any length in bringing the appellant to trial because he poses a flight risk.

“Rather, sufficient resources must be committed to the prosecution to ensure it proceeds swiftly, otherwise there will come a point where a judge hearing a further bail application will have no choice but to grant bail.

“There will come a point where the continued pre-trial detention of a person who is presumed innocent can no longer be justified, notwithstanding the seriousness of their alleged offending and the magnitude of the risk that they will not answer bail.”

Zayneh had appealed against the supreme court bail decision on the single ground that the judge’s finding that the prosecution had established he was an unacceptable risk of failing to surrender into custody in accordance with conditions of bail was unreasonable.

Between 31 March and 7 June 2021, he is alleged to have conspired to import 600kg of methamphetamine and 600kg of cocaine from the US and conspired to import 400kg of methamphetamine from India.

It is also alleged that he trafficked four kilograms of methamphetamine in Melbourne between 7 April and 7 June 2021.

Police allege that when Zayneh’s property was searched on 7 June 2021, they found $38,000 inside a coffee machine and a Glock 17 pistol and ammunition under a tile on the patio.

The supreme court found in July that given the complexity of the case a trial before 2025 appeared highly unlikely, and a trial the following year – by which time Zayneh would have been on remand for five years – was a “real possibility”.

Zayneh had told the supreme court he was willing to make a $2.9m surety available, submit to and pay for electronic monitoring, and submit to strict bail conditions which would have the effect of “subjecting him to extensive and strict home detention”.

He also said that court orders which restrained the assets and property of him and his wife, including the family home, a set of six residential units, a Mercedes-Benz and more than $500,000 in various bank accounts should also be considered in his favour.

He also said he was in constant pain, and noted that six co-accused had been granted bail.

But the prosecution argued against bail, submitting that Zayneh had a strong motive to flee the jurisdiction and avoid apprehension, given his alleged ‘“apex” role in the offending, coupled with the strength of the prosecution case and the likelihood of a lengthy prison term if convicted.

It also alleged that there was evidence of discussions between Zayneh and a co-offender about “the provision of five-figure sums of money per month to his family to meet their needs if he were to flee”, as well as a discussion between Zayneh and his brother about fleeing to countries with which Australia has no extradition treaty.

It was also submitted that although there were $7.5m in assets restrained by the court, there was evidence a further $5m was hiding or, as he allegedly described it, in “stook”.