A CRIMINAL once dubbed a “Mr Big” of the drug world was living a “high life” of drinking and having sex with women before he was busted over the world’s biggest ecstasy haul, a court has heard.
John Higgs was an indispensable middle man in the scheme involving 15 million ecstasy tablets valued at $122 million, which was hidden in tomato cans delivered to Melbourne by ship from Naples in 2007.
Higgs, now 65, knew the cans contained a large quantity of drugs and was expecting more than just “an earn” out of it, Justice Betty King said in a pre-sentence hearing yesterday.
“He wasn’t expecting a couple of grand,” Justice King said.
Higgs, who denied through his barrister Nick Papas, SC, that he was a founding member of the Black Uhlans bikie gang, was found guilty by a jury in May of conspiring to possess the smuggled ecstasy.
The judge suggested age had not wearied Higgs, who was sentenced at age 23 to 10 years’ jail for a debt-related manslaughter.
He continued committing offences until he was jailed for six years in 1999 for conspiring to traffic millions of dollars worth of drugs.
The judge heard that Higgs had lost two sons, one bashed to death at the family home in 1999, nine months after Higgs was jailed.
Mr Papas said after Higgs’ second marriage ended in 2007, he returned to Melbourne from Queensland and started taking drugs and drinking.
The judge suggested Higgs was having a “wonderful time”.
“It’s every man’s dream, isn’t it, to still be able to do that at that age. Out drinking, out late, women, sex – all of those things,” she said.
The court was told Higgs’ current female partner is 26.
Crown prosecutor Brent Young said the crime warranted a heavy jail term.
The leader of the smuggling ring, Pasquale Barbaro, was jailed for life with a 30-year minimum term.
Higgs will be sentenced on a date to be fixed.