Court sentence due for ‘ritzy’ Cairns drug dealer

COCAINE trafficker Matt Hilton loved the high life.

He drove a luxury Range Rover, wore designer clothes, commissioned a $120,000 speedboat, lived in a swank inner-city apartment, and enjoyed a ritzy overseas trip to Las Vegas.

The Cairns fitness trainer, former hairdresser and nightclub security company owner - with 13,100 followers on Instagram - is one of a new generation of party drug traffickers more "business than gangster''.

Cairns drug trafficking accused Matt Hilton
Cairns drug trafficking accused Matt Hilton

With his Adonis looks, ripped physique and stunning girlfriend, the 33-year-old muscle model liked to post pictures of his gym workouts, tattoos, and social life in the tropical Far North Queensland tourist haven.

Today he faces up to 11 years in jail.

In a covert two-year sting by police using phone taps and a listening device planted in his car, Hilton was unmasked as a "wholesale" party drug dealer with links to a sophisticated organised crime racket operating between Sydney and Cairns.

In a sentence to be handed down by Cairns Supreme Court Judge Jim Henry today, Hilton pleaded guilty to trafficking steroids, cocaine, crystal meth and ecstasy (MDA) pills between March 1, 2016 and January 3, 2018.

Graphic audio from the listening device planted in his vehicle was yesterday played on the first day of his sentencing hearing in court.

"That (cocaine) is good stuff, smooth as,'' Hilton can be heard telling one customer over snorting sounds.

"It's got a few rocky bits in it, but if it's too strong, it's not social,'' he said.

"You can't f-ck, you can't do anything, it's just weird.

"That ticks all the boxes.''

Matt Hilton walks from the Cairns Courthouse. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Matt Hilton walks from the Cairns Courthouse. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

Crown prosecutor Nathan Crane said Hilton was known for his cocaine having a "diesel smell of signature quality" of up to 63 per cent purity.

Hilton sold by the ounce and "jumped on it" or "cut it" one-to-one using substances like creatine to double the amount and sold it for $300 a gram or wholesale for $6500 an ounce, the court was told.

He sold huge quantities over more than two years but busts by police later found grams of coke with purity as low as 10 per cent, the court heard.

Hilton can also be heard on covert tape telling another customer "I'll leave the gangster (stuff) to others.

"I don't want to be gangster, it's all business,'' he said.

Covert surveillance photographs tendered to court showed Hilton exchanging money and drugs outside a Cairns nightclub where he ran security.

Justice Henry heard how Hilton had sourced his drugs through a mate who dealt with Sydney-based Lebanese businessman Kalid Kanj, who provided Hilton with an encrypted phone, and has since fled the country.

The court heard Hilton kept his "tick" or drug debt ledger on the encrypted Samsung phone that was wiped remotely while he was in police custody.

Hilton told an associate he knew the encrypted phone would cost police $120,000 and six months to crack if he didn't give them the passwords.

Cairns drug trafficking accused Matt Hilton
Cairns drug trafficking accused Matt Hilton

Police found $4000 in cash and $43,880 in unsourced funds in a bank account when they closed the operation and raided his home in January 3, 2018.

Hilton's case has become a cause célèbre in the social circles of Cairns after he successfully argued he was not a member of the organised crime syndicate, just a key customer.

His co-offender Ryan Hill is also a handsome, popular young man from a well-known local family who was rolled on by other syndicate members to get a discount on their own sentences.

Mr Hill, 26, the alleged drug syndicate kingpin who is yet to be sentenced after an 11th hour guilty plea, was denied bail after he referred to one co-accused as a rat on Facebook where others posted "don't dog the boys, snitches get stitches, and dead man walking".