A former NRL star will spend more than a decade in prison over a failed attempt to supply nearly one tonne of cocaine in Sydney.
Ex-Parramatta Eels player Aukuso Junior Paulo, 36, was sentenced to a minimum 11 years and four months jail over the attempted purchase of 900 kilograms of cocaine in December 2017.
Paulo and his co-accused, Kigi Kamuta, were arrested at Sydney’s Centennial Park where they were busted in an undercover operation.
An associate of Paulo’s, ‘Peking Duck’, organised the drug deal with an undercover cop and made arrangements to hand over the cocaine to Kamuta and Paulo.
During their dramatic arrest non-lethal bullets were fired by police through the windscreen of the vehicles.
A search of both vehicles uncovered a Smith & Wesson pistol, a Beretta pistol and ammunition, encrypted Blackberry devices and nearly $650,000 in cash.
Paulo, 36 and Kamuta, 42, were later charged with attempting to supply 900 kilograms of cocaine, which has a potential commercial value of $180 million.
In handing down his sentence, Judge Antony Townsden said the two offenders played less of a role than Peking Duck.
‘The fact that the drugs were not disseminated in the community is not a mitigating factor,’ Judge Townsden said.
Paulo pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing an unauthorised pistol and knowingly dealing with the proceeds of a crime.
He was also found guilty of participating in a criminal group and supplying a prohibited drug.
Kamuta was found guilty on all identical charges and was sentenced to a minimum of 10 years and nine months jail.
The judge deemed Paulo’s role in the criminal enterprise as ‘slightly more serious’ than Kamuta’s.
Paulo wrote in a letter to the court about a difficult and dysfunctional upbringing, and having witnessed his mother being assaulted while living in a refuge home.
The court also heard Paulo had become addicted to gambling after injury forced him to retire from the NRL in 2008.
‘He describes having no other skills and began drinking and gambling, becoming indebted to many other people,’ Judge Townsden said.
‘According to the offender, he was offered an opportunity to make some quick money to do the crimes.’
Paulo was given a maximum sentence of 17 years behind bars, and will be eligible for parole in 2029.
Kamuta was given a maximum term of 16 years and will be eligible for parole in 2028.