Police seized a tissue box filled with ice from a man south of Cairns in June last year.
Police seized a tissue box filled with ice from a man south of Cairns in June last year.

Tissue box of ice puts cinematographer in spotlight

A ONE-TIME drug courier who sold his car to pay off violent drug dealers after police intercepted him on a Far North highway will spend the next five months behind bars.

Norman Vakatini, 27, who usually lives and works as a cinematographer on the Sunshine Coast, was likely trying to make some "easy money" when he agreed to drive a tissue box filled with about five ounces of ice from Sydney to Cairns last year.

The Cairns Supreme Court heard the father-of-one was intercepted in his car at Fishery Falls on June 20, 2019 and despite police finding the drugs sitting on the front passenger seat, Vakatini initially denied knowing they were there.

Justice Jim Henry labelled his offending as "amateurish", with the court hearing he had no criminal history.

The court was told he had anticipated being paid up to $250,000 for the journey.

"I have the impression that success (as a cinematographer) was not financially brilliant and I cannot help but conclude that it is obvious that the lure of some easy money in performing the task you were performing when the police caught you was the underlying motivation for your commission of the offence," Justice Henry said when handing down his sentence in late March.

The court was told that after his arrest, Vakatini, who was out on bail, became the subject of threats and assaults by members of the drug community, telling his psychologist he was beaten up twice and accused of being a police informant, despite a tip-off likely leading to his arrest.

"The upshot, though, was that you felt you had no choice other than to sell your vehicle and repay the criminals behind this, and that you did," Justice Henry said.

"So the paranoia was well justified. You were, in fact, threatened and assaulted, and I accept that you did sell your vehicle to pay the shortfall created by the fact that the drugs had been seized by police.

"It may be going a little far to describe that as a form of summary justice."

Vakatini pleaded guilty to drug possession in court.

Justice Henry said it was clear the amount of ice he was transporting was for a commercial purpose, with a wholesale value well above $10,000 and a street value far higher.

"No evidence was found to suggest that you yourself were a drug dealer, indeed, the entire circumstances are entirely consistent with you being caught acting as a courier of the drug," he said.

He was sentenced to three years jail with a parole release date of October 15.

Originally published as 'Amateurish': Tissue box of ice puts cinematographer in spotlight