The man who helped drugs baron Tony Mokbel flee Australia has been sentenced to eleven years in prison

The Victorian Supreme Court heard George Elias (44), of Bonnie Doon, a village 115 kms north east of Melbourne, first agreed to assist Mokbel’s escape in a meeting on a bush track in 2006. In sentencing Elias last week, Justice Simon Whelan told him, he played a significant role in a “well-resourced criminal organisation.”

The court heard that Elias had allowed Mokbel to live in his part-owned property in Bonnie Doon, and that Elias accompanied Mokbel on his journey in late 2006 from Victoria to Western Australia. The court also heard that Elias had assisted in the fit-out and preparation of The Edwina, the yacht which Mokbel used to flee to Greece, after which he liaised with Mokbel, including sending cash overseas to finance the fugitive’s life in Athens, until his arrest in 2007.

Sentencing Elias, Justice Whelan said Elias had played a vital role in Mokbel’s drug empire, known as The Company. Elias stored equipment, handled drugs and cash, and was involved in the drug manufacturing process. “You were part of an enterprise that challenged the capacity of the system to respond to a well-resourced criminal organisation,” Justice Whelan said.

Tony Mokbel was finally apprehended in 2007, but the delay in his case meant Elias waited in custody for more than four years before his trial was able to proceed.

Elias pleaded guilty in October 2010 to attempting to pervert the course of justice, drug trafficking, dealing with the proceeds of crime and possessing unregistered firearms.

With time already served, Elias will be eligible for parole in less than four years. Justice Whelan said Elias had been an exemplary prisoner and had good prospects of rehabilitation, but his nine convictions for drug trafficking could not be ignored. The Supreme Court judge said Elias ordered that Elias serve at least eight more years. Tony Mokbel has yet to be sentenced.

Meanwhile, the 17 metre yacht, valued at $350,000 which was used to smuggle Mokbel to Athens, remains in Greece after attempts to sell the vessel have foundered. The Commonwealth Home Affairs office has been dealing with Greek authorities since the Victorian Supreme Court ordered The Edwena be forfeited 18 months ago. The process has reportedly been held up by problems of translation between Australian and Greek authorities.