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UPDATE: Fourth man charged over Cooloola drug sting

UPDATE 10am:

A COOLOOLA Cove man has been remanded in custody in Gympie Magistrates Court pending an appearance before an on-call magistrate on Saturday.

Brendan Robert Dunkinson, 31, unemployed, is now the fourth man to face the court.

He is charged with trafficking in marijuana between December 15 last year and April 21, two counts of producing the drug between New Year's Eve and March 11 and between December 18 and February 28, six counts of supplying marijuana to an undercover police operative on December 13, January 27, January 31, February 2, February 9, March 2 and April 6 and possessing a thing used in a drug offence on April 20.

 

UPDATE 8am:

POLICE say they have now charged 19 people with a total of 106 alleged offences and seized $520,000 in drugs and other property, after a major one-year surveillance operation between Neerdie and the Cooloola Coast.

They announced the closure of Operation Argilite, which they say focused on the alleged large scale cultivation and distribution of marijuana in the local area.

A police representative announced that police from Tin Can Bay, Rainbow Beach and Gympie had worked with the Drug and Serious Crime Group in an operation which began late last year and finished with the execution of 16 search warrants, mostly across the eastern Gympie region.

But they also revealed investigations are continuing and said further charges are expected.

"As a result of the raids (so far), police seized $520,000 in drugs, five motor vehicles and a mini excavator," na police media alert announced late Thursday afternoon. 

BUSTED: Marijuana crops uncovered growing Gympie region national parks as part of Operation Argilite.
BUSTED: Marijuana crops uncovered growing Gympie region national parks as part of Operation Argilite. Contributed

YESTERDAY:

THREE men fronted Gympie Magistrates Court on Thursday on major drug trafficking allegations, following the reported arrest of 10 people at the Cooloola Coast.

Two of the men, Benjamin Kelly, 50, of Cooloola Cove and Brett Hodgetts, 51, of Rainbow Beach, remain in custody.

Kelly was refused bail after magistrate M Baldwin backed police submissions that he was a bad risk because of possible re-offending or intimidation of witnesses.

This was despite defence submissions that much of the police case was speculative and there was no evidence he was "the kingpin" of a major drug operation, referred to in police material.

Hodgetts, 51, did not apply for bail and will appear in the court again on Monday.

BUSTED: Marijuana crops uncovered growing Gympie region national parks as part of Operation Argilite.
BUSTED: Marijuana crops uncovered growing Gympie region national parks as part of Operation Argilite. Contributed

The court was told police investigations were still continuing with further possible witnesses and suspects yet to be interviewed.

Kelly and Hodgetts were accused of operating a drug trafficking business over more than 10 years and growing marijuana at Neerdie and Toolara Forest.

The court was told the cases might take about a year to be finalised.

Mrs Baldwin told the youngest of the three, Hayden Fallon-Carey, 25, of Rainbow Beach, he needed to realise the seriousness of the changes which could carry a penalty up to 35 years in jail.

He was granted bail on the basis of what the court was told was his relatively minor role in the alleged operation.

BUSTED: Marijuana crops uncovered growing Gympie region national parks as part of Operation Argilite.
BUSTED: Marijuana crops uncovered growing Gympie region national parks as part of Operation Argilite. Contributed

Police had earlier announced the conclusion of Operation Argilite, which began late last year and targeted alleged activities in and around Rainbow Beach and Tin Can Bay

The state's Drug and Serious Crime Group joined police from Tin Can Bay, Rainbow Beach and Gympie during the investigation, including focusing on what was claimed to be illegally gained assets with the help of Crime and Corruption Commission.

Police had claimed 10 people were in custody, but most were not before the court yesterday. Kelly's legal representative told the court there was no evidence to support claims of a 10-year trafficking operation.

Topics:  assets cannabis drug bust gympie crime gympie police gympie region illegal marijuana operation rainbow beach tin can bay

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