Jamil Hopoate, who is an off-contract NRL player, was charged with large-scale commercial drug supply on Tuesday as part of an investigation into the alleged importation of cocaine with a street value of AU$154.2 million (NZ$165.6m).
Police allege Hopoate ran from police with an 8kg substance in his backpack, which he threw over a fence into a nearby backyard in Mascot.
The 26-year-old appeared via audiovisual link at Sydney’s Central Local Court on Wednesday and wiped away tears as his daughter waved to him through the court’s cameras.
His brother Will was joined by his father John and mother Brenda, who signalled “I love you” multiple times to the cameras while the matter was being heard.
In court, Hopoate’s principal lawyer Greg James QC argued the substance in the backpack was a dummy drug that had been swapped out by police and therefore his client could not be charged under the charge of drug supply.
Australian Border Force had previously intercepted a shipment of toolboxes last week from the UK, which contained 514 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of nearly $155 million and had been investigating the matter since.
As part of the investigation, police switched the cocaine for a dummy drug. James argued the former Brisbane Broncos player was therefore simply utilised as a delivery person for the material.
Magistrate Philip Stewart rejected the submission and said it could be inferred the defendant believed the backpack contained a prohibited drug.
“By taking the bag why did he throw it away ... if not of the belief he was taking a prohibited drug,” Stewart said.
Mohomed Abbas, another lawyer on Hopoate’s legal team, told reporters they would be taking the matter to the Supreme Court.
“We respectfully disagree with the submission, we do intend to take it to the Supreme Court,” Abbas said.
Abbas said Hopoate was doing “fine” after spending the night in Surry Hills Police Station.
“When you get bail refused you spend time in custody, it is what it is,” he said.
Police allege officers stopped a truck in Botany on Tuesday which was being driven by Hopoate’s co-accused and friend Leanne Mafoa.