SA police drop alleged $151 million bikie drug syndicate trial to keep surveillance techniques a secret

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AN alleged $151 million outlaw bikie drug syndicate trial has been dropped because SA Police want its surveillance techniques kept secret — even from a court.

Two years of investigations and 12 months of court hearings over one of the biggest drug busts in SA’s history came to nothing on Tuesday.

Troy Robert Nissen and Alex Vanin walked free less than three hours after the state’s highest court declined to get involved in SA Police’s refusal to reveal its methods.

Detectives did not want the duo to know anything about two GPS devices attached to their cars during a 2013 investigation into Adelaide Hills drug trafficking.

Prosecutors asked both the District and Full Courts to permit the use of “crucial” data from the devices despite the secrecy, but were unsuccessful.

In a judgment on Tuesday, three of the state’s most senior judges labelled the actions of police and prosecutors “surprising”, “difficult to understand” and “puzzling”.

The dropped charges mean just one person will be sentenced for almost two million street deals of methylamphetamine, cocaine and other drugs — and only because he pleaded guilty.

Mr Nissen, 38, and Mr Vanin, 30, of Hope Valley, pleaded not guilty to offences including drug manufacturing and trafficking, and being members of a criminal organisation.

Their co-accused — Darren Andrew Guy, 46, of Salisbury Heights — pleaded guilty to manufacturing a controlled drug for sale and will face sentencing submissions in November.

Police and prosecutors alleged the trio were among 25 members and associates of the Descendents motorcycle gang involved in a $151 million drug syndicate.

They alleged the syndicate was responsible for millions of street deals, two clandestine labs and the burial of large amounts of meth and ecstasy tablets at Inglewood.

Central to the case was GPS surveillance data which, detectives alleged, had traced Mr Nissen and Mr Vanin to key addresses.

The duo’s counsel, David Edwardson QC and Mark Griffin QC, challenged the admissibility of that evidence.

They asserted that, without being given access to — or information about — the GPS devices, their data could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

Prior to trial, police twice sought public interest immunity over the devices so they did not have to provide them in court nor reveal their make, model or instruction manuals.

Those bids were abandoned but police still declined to reveal anything about the devices, including the software used to download and read their records.

Prosecutors argued a GPS was a “notorious scientific instrument” that could “be presumed to be accurate and reliable” because it was common.

They further argued a printout of the data should be accepted as “truthful” under the court’s standing rules about “business records”.

Judge Rauf Soulio excluded the evidence, saying there was insufficient information to establish its accuracy, and the trial was stayed pending a Full Court challenge.

On Tuesday, Justices Kevin Nicholson, Greg Parker and David Lovell said it was “doubtful” the Full Court could provide “any answers” about the admissibility of the evidence.

They said the evidence was “incomplete in a number of potentially important respects” due to the “puzzling” way the case had proceeded.

They dismissed the challenge and remitted the matter to Judge Soulio — 2 ½ hours later, prosecutors withdrew the charges.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions declined to comment on Tuesday, while SA Police did not return requests for comment.

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