A skipper who admitted collecting around 200kg of cocaine from a container ship off Sydney has learned his fate after telling a court he only did so because threats were made against his family .
Jake Laurens Hurkmans, 29, faced NSW District Court on Friday after pleading guilty to possession of a commercial quantity of an illegal drug controlled at borders and being reckless with the proceeds of crime .
Judge Kate Traill told the court she considered the remorse, regret and embarrassment Hurkmans had shown following the offense as well as the non-exculpatory duress he endured when he tried to withdraw.
PLAN TO CARRY MONEY
The court heard the South Australian had been put in touch with a man named Alex through a diver friend and that Alex was looking for “someone with construction experience”.
After a series of meetings, the pair talked about their future work together and Alex said he wanted someone to “take a big bag of cash out to sea”.
Hurkmans initially rejected Alex’s offer as he suspected the request was illegal, but was later contacted by Alex again in early 2020 and told him he couldn’t find anyone else experienced enough to help. attack at work.
As the Covid-19 pandemic began to take hold, Hurkmans was losing work and agreed to do the job when Alex promised him $50,000, the court heard.
Alex bought a Kingfisher boat from Hurkmans, which the 29-year-old had to collect himself from Sydney.
‘When he heard the boat was going to be purchased in his name, he got scared because he hadn’t provided any details and started to think he was getting in the way of his head,’ the judge said Traill to court.
“He decided he would do it once and not do it again.”
The court was told that Hurkmans did not believe the work involved drugs at this stage, only that he would transfer money.
On March 7, 2021, he hired a car in Adelaide and drove the fishing boat to Kurnell in Sydney’s south where he stayed in a beachside hut and also hired a storage unit for a week.
CHANGE OF PLAN
Hurkmans then received messages saying there had been a “mistake” and that he was supposed to “bring some things back” from the ship, the court was told.
“He said, ‘it’s not happening, I don’t want to be involved’… packed up his gear, left the boat where it was and made the decision to go,” Judge Traill told the court.
“He messaged the men saying ‘you know where the bag and the boat are, I’m not staying’, but his phone kept ringing as he started to drive to Adelaide.”
Judge Traill told the court that Hurkmans received a series of messages and photos from three different men, including Alex, telling him he had no choice.
THREATS TO THE FAMILY
Hurkmans was then given a photo of the front of her parents’ house and another image of her partner and her dog, the court heard.
“Accidents can happen at any time to those you love and doing what we ask you to do is a great way to avoid those accidents,” a message accompanying the images read.
The 29-year-old froze, petrified and took the messages as a threat.
He decided to turn around and head back to the boat rather than go to the police and ask for help, the court heard.
At around 2:45 a.m. on March 11, Hurkmans took the boat to the Hawkesbury Park boat launch at Royal National Park and headed up the Georges River towards Botany Bay.
He traveled to the GPS location given to him when a 330m container ship passed him and dropped 11 floating containers into the sea for him to retrieve.
It took Hurkmans two hours to retrieve the containers before returning to Botany Bay where he was arrested by police.
He immediately informed the police of the threats against his family and AFP officers were sent to their home in Adelaide to make sure they were okay, the court heard.
Meanwhile, police found 11 containers, each containing a sports bag inside containing bricks of cocaine wrapped in plastic.
Police found 199 bricks, which is equivalent to 199.1 kg of cocaine with a pure weight of 155.1 kg.
They also found $520,000 in cash in the storage unit.
Judge Traill told the court Hurkmans admitted he was ‘naive not to think it was more than substantive illegal activity’ and suspected he was ‘way in way over his head “.
NON EXCULPATORY CONSTRAINT
Judge Traill found that Hurkmans offended because he was under “non-exculpatory duress” due to the threats against his family.
As he attempted to back out of the criminal enterprise, Judge Traill said he saw the photos with the implied threat and felt he was “too involved” to go to the police.
“The offender raised concerns for his family with the police at the time of the arrest,” she said.
“There is no verbatim record of what he said – they were not being held hostage, but he clearly had concerns for his family due to the threats.”
The judge did not accept the Crown prosecutor’s remarks that Hurkmans “made it up” so he could “persuade his family that he hadn’t done the right thing”.
The court was told that Hurkmans had no ‘medial’ role in the drug ring because ‘the Crown does not know the full nature of the criminal enterprise and it is difficult to determine his role in the hierarchy’ .
Judge Traill said the 29-year-old was “used” by others and told what to do.
She concluded that he was not a “knowledgeable offender” as he made no attempt to conceal his identity when booking the storage container and cabin.
“He knew what he was doing was illegal, but it wasn’t until the day before the breach that he was told he had to pick things up off the ship…that he realized that it was probably drugs,” Judge Traill said.
“The main motivation for the day was the threats and concerns for the family and himself, but that was not his only motivation.”
Hurkmans was sentenced to an 11-year prison term, backdated to his arrest in March 2021 with a six-year-and-six-month non-release period.
He will be eligible for parole on September 10, 2027.
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