An entrepreneur starts a new company, takes a business trip to Europe to source goods then gets his first shipment six months later…..
This could easily be the narrative of any number of budding professionals operating a small business in the Illawarra, Ahmad El Hage included.
The Lake Heights father-of-three is on a good wicket earning $274,000 as a full-time electrical engineer at the Tallawarra Power Station in Yallah.
His LinkedIn profile shows a tidy history of work for the likes of RailCorp and BlueScope Steel since he graduated with a Bachelors of Engineering from the University of Wollongong in 2004.
But police say in October last year, El Hage started a new chapter in his life when he established his own import/export company called Triumfo Australia Pty Ltd.
Six months later El Hage took a trip to Spain, which he told Australian Border Force officials had been for the purpose of sourcing bathroom hardware and tiles for the new business.
Another six months down the track and El Hage first shipment containing 28 tonnes of granite tile blocks was unloaded on the docks at Port Botany.
But it’s what Australian Federal Police allegedly found concealed inside the shipment that prompted them to launch an immediate investigation into El Hage’s business practices.
In an outline of the case tendered during recent court proceedings, police say they discovered 20kgs of cocaine allegedly distributed inside hollow granite blocks which had been placed in the middle of each of the pallets.
AFP officers removed the drugs, which they said were subsequently analaysed and confirmed as cocaine, before reconstructing the pallets to their original state and releasing them to the Sydney Port Authority for on-delivery to El Hage.
The two containers were delivered to a warehouse in Oak Flats, where a children’s jumping castle business is operated by day.
Police allege El Hage and a co-accused, Zachary Chie, spent the next few days using a sledgehammer to break apart the blocks in a bid to find the drugs.
Officers secretly recorded a conversation between El Hage, Chie and a third man speaking over a mobile phone and referred to only as ‘Uncle’, about where to find the “stuff” in the granite blocks.
It is alleged the unknown man gave El Hage specific instructions about where to look that matched where AFP officers had earlier discovered the drugs.
Drug squad officers arrested El Hage and Chie on November 10 and raided their respective homes.
Both men were charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug but declined to be interviewed by police on advice from their lawyers.
They remain in custody, bail refused, however the Mercury understands El Hage may apply for bail when he fronts court again on Thursday.