How Cairns’ biggest drug network was brought undone
IT BEGAN as a quiet public tip-off - a concerned resident questioning the "unexplained wealth" of Edmonton electrician Ryan Hill.
The average income of a young sparky is hardly enough to be buying flash cars, commissioning custom-made boats and lavishing those close to him with expensive gifts, and someone smelt a rat.
They were right.
As officers from the Far North's major and organised crime squad tugged at the thread of Hill's seemingly impossible lavish lifestyle, it all slowly began to unravel.
Phones were tapped, surveillance photos were snapped and a range of other undercover strategies were put in place as the players in Hill's drug network unwittingly revealed themselves.
For almost two years the now 27-year-old acted as the Cairns figurehead of the group as they tipped kilograms of methylamphetamines, MDMA and cocaine into the city and "misery on to the streets".
Despite becoming aware police were watching after several packages were intercepted, Hill forged on.
When asked if police were shocked by their brazen behaviour, drug squad boss Detective Senior Sergeant Kevin Goan said no.
"We're never surprised by greed," he said.
"There is an attraction of ill-gotten gains without true consideration of the consequences which makes the lifestyle appealing. Everyone wants the luxury without getting out and earning it."
Police pounced on January 2, 2018, closing Operation Oscar Aymara and arresting Hill and Matthew Hilton, 33, who was later jailed for 10½ years for trafficking.
Just days before, they had intercepted their fourth package - large quantities of meth, MDMA tablets and cocaine - and replaced them with flour, laxatives and rock salt.
The day of the pair's arrest, police, along with the SES and other agencies, dug up the Gordonvale backyard of Hill's father, finding PVC pipes filled with drugs and cash, including the police's dummy packages.
The effects of bringing down that network shook the city's underworld, and hit them hard in the hip pocket.
The operation's alleged mastermind, mysterious Sydney businessman Kalid Kanj, fled the country and is believed to be in Lebanon.
Ryan Hill becomes target of police drug trafficking probe
Sets up Body Matrix supplements business with drug proceeds
March 2016- April 2017
Dozens of packages of drugs and cash sent between Cairns and Sydney through Australia Post. Police intercept
Police intercept 1kg of meth, 3000 MDMA pills and 5oz of cocaine
Hill switches from using Australia Post to Toll after recruiting Cairns operations manager Jamie Payet
Keiran Wilson arrested and charged
January 2, 2018
Operation Oscar Aymara closed with arrests of Hill, Hilton
April 6, 2018
Second search of Hill's house
Police intercept drug package with Hill's fingerprints on them
January 9. 2018
Payet arrested at Cairns Airport after returning from Thailand
September 7, 2018
Sydney courier Sandeep Dharan extradited to Cairns
June 21, 2019
Hill charged over Facebook 'rat' post
October 10, 2019
Dharan sentenced to seven years jail
November 28, 2019
Payet sentenced to six years jail
February 5, 2020
Hill pleads guilty to trafficking as part of an organised crime syndicate
February 12, 2020
Matthew Hilton jailed for 10½ years for trafficking, after lawyers successfully argued he was not part of syndicate
February 13, 2020
Hanna Glatthor given 18 months probation for money laundering
May 21, 2020
Justice Jim Henry revokes Hill's guilty plea
June 8, 2020
Ethan Hill jailed for two years, nine months for permitting use of place for trafficking
September 23, 2020
Hill found not guilty of being part of an organised crime syndicate
September 28, 2020
Hill handed 14-year sentence for drug trafficking
Comments on Ryan Hill's Facebook page calling co-offender Keiran Wilson a 'rat'
Snitches get stitches, don't dog the boys, dead man walking
Crown prosecutor Nathan Crane
When (the community) sees people like Mr Hill flashing all the things he had ... and that is from the sale of drugs, the deterrence aspect of that has some force
Det Sen-Sgt Kevin Goan
Everyone wants the luxury without getting out and earning it
Sandeep Dharan's lawyer David Meredith speaking about Kalid Kanj
He sold up and left the country for Lebanon; he is beyond the reach of the law
Justice Jim Henry to Jamie Payet
(You) failed the integrity test by a long way
Justice Jim Henry while sentencing Matthew Hilton
(You were leading a) big deal drug dealer about town wasteful lifestyle
Originally published as How Cairns' biggest drug network was brought undone