IT WAS a complex ploy but police discovered it by accident.
They were investigating another man, when a recorded phone call led to a plan by three eastern suburbs men to conspire with others to import a large amount of cocaine.
The plan, hatched in phone calls and during meetings between co-conspirators in Spain, Canada and at the Clovelly Surf Life Saving Club, was to import the drugs hidden in a truck that was being shipped from Panama to Sydney on a container ship.
At Patrick's dock at Darling Harbour, dock workers known to one or more of the conspirators were to offload the truck and its contents, and take the drugs out of the terminal.
But neither the Illinois-registered truck, nor its expected 30-kilogram illegal cargo, ever made it to Australia.
Yesterday - more than six years after the conspiracy started and after two lengthy trials - the three men were sentenced for their roles.
The first trial, which ended after five months in a hung verdict, attracted attention when one of the jurors told the judge they had lost their job because of the length of the trial.
The Crime Commission was investigating allegations of jury irregularities during this trial.
After a second lengthy and costly trial the three - the former South Sydney footballer Ricky James Montgomery, the former hotelier Bradley James Evans and a Maroubra man, Hayden Rodgers - were found guilty.
Since then, their lawyers have raised concerns over the role of the then Crime Commission investigator Mark Standen, who faces drug charges, and his link with Steven James, the key Crown witness against them.
James, who had taken a leading role in the import plan, had misled the court at his own sentencing hearing and successfully minimised his role, Judge Peter Zahra found yesterday. He found he could not trust James's testimony unless it was corroborated and found Evans and Rodgers were not as involved in the conspiracy as Montgomery.
All three would face a difficult time in prison because of the effect on their families, and various physical and psychological ailments, Judge Zahra ruled.
Montgomery, who had a record, was sentenced to a minimum of nearly 11 years. Evans received a minimum prison term of seven years, and Rodgers was given a minimum six-year prison sentence.
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