By Kara Lawrence -
October 17, 2005
SOUTH America has become the focus of the hunt for one of two Sydney
cocaine kingpins believed to have fled the country. Investigators believe
Les Mara - one of the principals of a plot to smuggle in 20kg of cocaine
through Sydney airport early this year - is hiding in Rio de Janeiro.
One Kilo Block of Cocaine
Mara, 52, and Michael Hurley, 58, are understood to have fled after being
tipped off to operation Mocha, a week before the May raids which resulted
in 11 arrests.
Both allegedly were kingpins in the conspiracy to smuggle the cocaine from
Buenos Aires with the assistance of corrupt baggage handlers at Sydney
The Daily Telegraph understands that in the months before the arrests both
Mara and Hurley were moving between hotels in the Sydney CBD and inner west.
Investigations have revealed Mara has a long-term connection to the
Brazilian capital, having visited on many occasions. A woman with whom he
had a serious relationship lives in Rio and she may be willing to help him,
Both he and Hurley are believed to be travelling on false passports.
Sydney associates of Mara, whose practice of counter-surveillance methods
borders on the obsessive, said Rio was the most likely hiding place.
Meanwhile, Ireland has emerged as a possible location for Hurley.
Hurley, who had a tumour removed from his spine last year, was receiving
radiation treatment before leaving Sydney and had difficulty walking.
He would need to be close to specialist medical treatment, which could be
found cheaply in Thailand, visited by Hurley last year.
However, associates have told how he spoke of his fondness for Ireland. "He
has said he would live there if he could, or had to," one source said.
Of the pair, Hurley is viewed as the most likely to return to Australia
voluntarily due to his ill health.