Australian horse racing authorities have come under fire for allowing alleged cocaine kingpin Damion Flower to operate at the sport’s highest level, according to an investigation printed by abc.net.au.
The former airline baggage handler was denied a license as a groom in August of 2013 because of his history of violence and bankruptcy, but four years later regulators accepted Flower’s check for $1.8 million to help create one of the world’s richest horse races, The Everest.
It was apparently Flower’s part-ownership of Australian Group 1 winner and leading sire Snitzel that helped convince the regulatory body, Racing New South Wales.
“In the circumstances, it could not be reasonably suggested that a person who made many millions of dollars from selling shares in a horse that cost him $260,000, while retaining an ongoing revenue stream in Australia’s No.1 performing stallion, is not a person of considerable means,” Racing NSW general counsel Pete Sweney said in a statement to abc.net.au.
Flower was arrested in May of 2019, and eventually pleaded guilty to importing 228 kilograms of pure cocaine from South Africa on 12 flights since 2016. At his sentencing hearing last Friday, Flower’s attorney told the court Flower was “weak but not beyond redemption.”
“Mr Flower failed to have the fortitude to withdraw from the enterprise,” Francis said, according to news.com.au. “This was an isolated breach in criminality.”
Flower and his co-conspirator John Mafiti are due to be sentenced in February 2022.
According to Nick McTaggart, Australia’s most senior operational officer investigating money laundering until he retired in 2016, organized crime has a long history with horse racing.
“The criminals are able to operate in plain sight,” McTaggart told abc.net.au. “The beauty about the horseracing game is that you can either buy such assets individually, or you can buy them with a group of other people, which doesn’t diminish your wealth, but doesn’t allow asset confiscation groups to make a complete claim on your assets.
Between 2013 and 2019, Flower purchased over $30 million of Thoroughbreds between Australia’s auction houses, Inglis and Magic Millions. He would follow those purchases by selling off shares to investors.
McTaggart also said that racing’s regulators are not in a position to be able to stop criminals like Flower.
“It’s not within Racing NSW’s bailiwick or charter to be doing background checks on the individuals involved in horseracing, unless they have a suspicion that these individuals are actually doing something by way of illegal activity with a horse or fixing races or issues like that,” McTaggart told abc.net.au. “So, their ability to be able to scrutinize activity is fairly limited in its terms.”
Read more at abc.net.au and news.com.au.
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