Jovanco Kitanovski’s Anom texts revealed before sentence for Mostafa Baluch smuggling

The brazen texts of a man accused of playing a senior role in a criminal syndicate have been revealed in court.

Jovanco Kitanovski, 47, beamed into Sydney Downing Centre Local Court in his prison greens on Thursday to fight a bid to keep him behind bars on remand.

He was charged with conspiring to import a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug into Australia in 2020 in the midst of the international crime busts related to the ANOM messaging platform.

Police claim the Sydney resident was one of the masterminds behind a failed bid to import a multimillion-dollar shipment of cocaine by attaching it to rubber tyres linked to the outside of cargo vessels.

The court heard police allegedly found incriminating messages on the encrypted service which demonstrate that Kitanovski is a senior member of the Australian branch of an international criminal syndicate.

The court heard the father of three allegedly told the group in messages that he’d “been in this game a long time”.

“I’ve lost drugs before and I’ve had to cough up $12m of my own money,” the court heard Kitanovski wrote.

Defence lawyer Ben Barrack told the court the prosecution case was reliant on the ANOM messages, which may have been obtained illegally.

He told the court that the development, operation and interception of the ANOM platform would be challenged in a court hearing in the middle of next year. If the messages were found to be criminally obtained, Mr Barrack said the case against his client would be void.

“In the absence of all those messages, there is effectively no case against the applicant,” he said.

The court heard Kitanovski’s family, business, and health were all suffering as a result of his time in custody. Kitanovski asked for bail to be granted so he could tend to his chronically ill son and assist his wife in running his family business, which has been operational for 20 years.

Mr Barrack pointed to previous instances when the alleged conspirator had been on bail for similar offences and had not fled. He offered a surety of $1.5m to ensure his attendance at court.

However the police prosecutor argued there were no conditions which could ameliorate the risk of fleeing.

“Unacceptable risk of flight does exist, regardless of the accused’s previous conduct when granted bail,” he said.

He noted the offending would likely have continued if the ANOM messages were not uncovered.

“He did not believe he would be captured,” he said.

“It’s consistent with people who occupy such high roles in syndicates.”

Magistrate Daniel Covington agreed the 59-page statement of facts formed a strong prosecution case against Kitanovski.

“He is someone who is at a more significant level within this conspiracy,” he said.

“Some of the texts speak of his involvement at a significant level and for a lengthy period of time.”

If found guilty, the court heard Kitanovski is likely to be sentenced to life in prison.

Magistrate Covington granted the police application to detain Kitanovski and he will remain in custody.

Kitanovski is also awaiting sentencing for smuggling alleged drug lord Mostafa Baluch over the NSW/Qld border amid a nation-wide manhunt. 

He is due to be sentenced for his role in the daring escape plan at Grafton District Court on Thursday afternoon

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