Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Swearingen Merlin 3, N224HR: Plane seized in 2014 police raid up for sale 


Pilot Bernhard Stevermuer

FOR SALE: One Swearingen Merlin 3 turboprop aircraft, aged 46 years – and believed to have been used to transport drugs into Australia.

It has called the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) at Albion Park Rail home for almost three years. But now, the plane – and its colourful, Breaking Bad-esque history – could be yours.

The American-registered aircraft was raided for drugs during a dramatic police operation at the Illawarra Regional Airport in July, 2014.

Middle Eastern Organized Crime Squad officers coordinated the raid on the then 43-year-old plane, N224HR, which had arrived at the airport two weeks earlier. 

No drugs were located. 

However, the plane was found to be linked to an international drug and money-laundering syndicate involving Fairy Meadow man Bernhard Stevermuer.

No comment: Pilot Bernhard Stevermuer (right) declined to answer questions from the media. 

Stevermuer, a licensed pilot, was charged over the plot after it was revealed fellow syndicate members used his Albion Park-based aviation business to buy light aircraft using drug money.

He was responsible for the purchase of the Merlin 3 from the US for $400,000 in early 2013 and piloted it on its flight from the US to Australia, via the Philippines.

Stevermuer was originally sentenced to 19 month’s jail but had his prison term overturned on appeal.

The plane was seized under proceeds of crime legislation and has been in the possession of the NSW Trustee and Guardian (TAG). 

The TAG has indicated it wants to sell the plane, as soon as early next year, and HARS president Bob De La Hunty said “a few auction houses” had already been to have a look.

The plane comes without seats – they were removed and replaced with long-range ferry tanks, Mr. De La Hunty said. 

As for how much it might fetch, he said: “It’d be scrap metal value only, because it’s got no records and it’s so old.” 

“As a museum piece it’s displayable, but the reality is without any records it’s not worth anything as an airplane,” he said.

The plane’s US registration was an issue that needed to be resolved before its ownership could be transferred to any potential buyer, Mr. De La Hunty said.

Story and slideshow ➤

Swearingen Merlin 3, N224HR: The Story Of The Mystery Plane, The Cash, The Drugs And Maybe The CIA

Here’s a story of mystery and intrigue. It concerns a private plane, organized crime, a drug seizure, a large amount of cash and more than likely the CIA.  
Writer &  Blogger 

Some weeks ago I started a blog post about a mystery plane that turned up in Australia, a significant quantity of illegal drugs, a large amount of cash and likely CIA involvement.

I’ve already written two blog posts on this topic. Here is part three. But first a little background as a recap.

The plane, a US-registered Swearingen Merlin 3 twin turbo prop, arrived illegally in Australia but no one knows how.

But clearly someone knew something because the Australian Federal Police and the New South Wales Middle Eastern Organized Crime Squad, raided the eight-seater private plane while it was parked on the tarmac at Illawarra airport, a tiny, regional hub south of Sydney. The day of the raid was real cops and robbers stuff. About 20 police surrounded the plane. The local newspaper was tipped off and took plenty of pictures.

A 43-year-old Wollongong pilot, Bernard Stevermuer, listed as the owner of the plane, was arrested and charged with being part of a criminal organization and dealing with the proceeds of crime. He is currently on bail.

Police allege a major international crime syndicate was using the airport to import guns and drugs for distribution throughout southwest Sydney. The syndicate was allegedly operated by two other men, who police claim have links to a number of New South Wales outlaw motorcycle gangs. What their precise connection might be to Stevermuer has not been revealed.

Police obviously had Stevermuer under surveillance. They claim to have documents which show that the syndicate commissioned Stevermuer to buy the plane in the United States for $US400,000 provided by a mortgage company in Sydney. But as you will discover, the purchase was very complicated and full of intrigue.

Police also allege that documents show Stevermuer, mysteriously had access to a large amount of cash and was prepared to pay $A1.5 million to buy two aviation businesses.

Several aviation sources say Stevermuer was in negotiation to buy the flight training organization, NSW Air and another company, the Aerial Patrol shark-spotting plane service.

Read more here: 3

The Story Of The Mystery Plane, The Cash, The Drugs And Maybe The CIA 2: 2

The Story Of The Mysterious Plane, The Cash, The Drugs And Maybe The CIA: 1

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