Nikolic’s alleged cocaine stash revealed in court
COURTROOM Two - where the trial of accused Aussie drug smugglers John and Yvette Nikolic is being held in Suva High Court - was cleared on Wednesday morning as cocaine parcels allegedly found on the Nikolics' yacht Shenanigans were opened in the courtroom for lawyers to inspect.
On the third day of the High Court trial, the court heard crew member Jeffrey Hassell was initially unwilling to sign a detention notice for a plastic bag of drugs allegedly found on the yacht and a stainless steel flask, after John had been rushed to hospital following a suspected overdose and Yvette taken into custody.
However, after being informed by chief customs officer of the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service (FRCS) officer Tomasi Drisi - who was overseeing the June 22 raid at Denarau Marina - that he was not a person of interest in the investigation, Mr Hassell agreed to sign the notice.
"Mr Hassell didn't want to receive the notices but you persuaded him," defence lawyer for Yvette, Ronald Gordon, said.
Mr Hassell later pointed out other places contraband might be successfully hidden on the yacht, the court was told.
Under cross-examination from defence lawyer for John Nikolic, Wasu Pillay, Mr Drisi confirmed the search of Shenanigans had started at 12.30pm and it was two hours before the first lot of drugs were found in a locker under the deck.
Both John and Yvette Nikolic have pleaded not guilty to charges of drug importation, possession and weapons offences.
Mr Drisi said it hadn't occurred to him that he had persuaded Mr Hassell to sign the detention notices by referring to him as a witness.
"That didn't come into my mind when the incident happened," Mr Drisi said.
Mr Hassell, from Honolulu, was later free to leave, along with another two crew members, the court heard.
The Nikolics have been in custody in Fiji prisons for seven months.
Mr Drisi also agreed photos tendered to the court revealed two of the officers who handled the blue, zip-up bag the 10 cocaine bars were allegedly found in, were not wearing gloves and that fingerprint or DNA testing had not been carried out on the bag or its content at the time.
The court also heard the flask John Nikolic reportedly used to overdose had been found in a bathroom toilet.
Mr Drisi said John Nikolic had asked to go and speak privately to Yvette after the blue bag of drugs was found and this was allowed.
Giving evidence for the prosecution earlier this week, Mr Drisi said John Nikolic said "I know what you're looking for" after the first lot of cocaine was discovered, and pointed out the location of the other cocaine bars, before asking to talk to his wife, who he said knew nothing about the drugs.
The court heard on Wednesday that the alleged comment from Mr Nikolic had not been recorded at the time.
It was after the private conversation with Yvette that John asked to go to the bathroom on the yacht and allegedly attempted suicide by overdosing, the court has previously heard.
"Following the drama of the attempted suicide", authorities searched Shenanigans again and found more drugs, money and weapons hidden in an interior wall of the yacht, lead prosecutor Lee Burney said on Monday.
"It is the prosecution case that it was Mr Nikolic's parting gift to his wife to attempt to provide her with the life raft of a false defence," Mr Burney said.
The trial before Judge Daniel Goundar continues.