Bikie getaway thwarted by police

Mark Douglas Buddle said he was going to surprise his long-term partner by proposing.IT was meant to be a dream South Pacific getaway highlighted by a surprise marriage proposal.

But instead of a beach in Noumea, the former national president of the Comancheros bikie gang will spend at least the next five days in a Hunter jail cell after he was allegedly caught with more than $60,000 in cash on board a private aircraft trying to leave Australia.

Mark Douglas Buddle, 30, waved and blew kisses to his partner Melanie Ter Wisscha during a protracted bail application in Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday. The former bikie, who gave an address in South Yarra, was charged with dealing with the proceeds of crime and taking more than $10,000 out of Australia without reporting it.

But his solicitor, Avni Djemal, told the court his client had been given the money by a number of friends ‘‘as a sort of reward’’ for completing rehabilitation for alcohol and substance abuse issues. Mr Djemal said the money was for a trip away, where Mr Buddle was going to surprise his long-term partner by proposing.

He said Customs officers had found an engagement ring on board the aircraft.

After serving more than a year in custody for his role in a Melbourne strip club brawl in December 2011 – and with subsequent strict parole conditions concluding on Saturday – Mr Buddle boarded a privately chartered twin-engine BE20 King Air aircraft at Essendon Airport on Tuesday bound for New Caledonia, according to police facts tendered to court. Police estimated the chartered flight would cost between $50,000 and $60,000.

On board with him were his partner, Ms Ter Wisscha, the couple’s daughter and a fully licensed pilot. About 9.20am, the aircraft landed at Newcastle Airport to be refuelled and allow passengers to clear Customs.

Two Australian Border Force officers met aircraft VH ZMP on the tarmac and collected all passengers’ passports and departure cards, police said. ‘‘All the departure cards had been completed with the declaration that they were not taking more than $10,000 in Australian or foreign currency out of Australia,’’ the police stated.

It was when the officers asked to inspect the passenger’s luggage that both Mr Buddle and Ms Ter Wisscha admitted there was ‘‘significant amounts of cash’’ in their bags, police stated.

Supporters of former Comancheros president Mark Buddle outside Newcastle Court.

Officers found bundles of cash in a bum bag allegedly belonging to Mr Buddle totaling $29,045. They also found $30,000 in cash in a black suitcase allegedly belonging to Ms Ter Wisscha.

As police were being called, Port Stephens police Detective Inspector George Radmore and Acting Superintendent Guy Flaherty were at the airport on another matter.

Police facts stated Mr Buddle approached police and said: ‘‘My wife filled out the cards, I only had 10 and she had the rest’’.

Mr Buddle was later searched and handed over $1095 in a money clip and $145 in a wallet. He was arrested and taken to Raymond Terrace police station where he refused to take part in an interview, provide details about the source of the cash or divulge who organised and paid for the private charter flight.

He later told police he was self-employed and drove a fruit delivery truck for a friend – earning ‘‘thousands of dollars each week’’ – but was unable to identify the company in Melbourne he was driving for, police facts stated.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Maree Maynard opposed bail, labelling the accused an ‘‘unacceptable flight risk’’. She said Mr Buddle had only been out of jail for a month and had no legitimate means by which he could have acquired $60,000 in cash. Ms Maynard said Mr Buddle had limited ties in NSW and had a long history of failing to appear in court.

But Mr Djemal said Mr Buddle and his partner intended to live in NSW now his Victorian jail term was complete and had enrolled their daughter in a Sydney school.

He said his client had completed strict parole conditions ‘‘without a blemish’’ and had not committed an offence since 2012.

He also said Ms Ter Wisscha had filled out the declaration forms and upon learning of her mistake sought to amend them. ‘‘He might have signed it, but whether he understood what he signed is a live issue as to his culpability and liability in this case,’’ Mr Djemal said.

‘‘There is no doubt money was found, there is no issue there.

‘‘But the money was left by numerous people as a sort of reward for his coming through rehab.

‘‘It was for a trip away and there is no dispute an engagement ring was found.

‘‘This was meant to be a surprise, he was going to propose to her.

‘‘It was supposed to be a trip away and back, otherwise they wouldn’t have enrolled their daughter in school here, but it has become something quite sour.’’

Magistrate Ian Cheetham adjourned the matter until Tuesday to make a judgment on bail. Until then, Mr Buddle was remanded in custody.

Ms Ter Wisscha was not arrested but was told she was likely to face similar charges.

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