Stuart MacGill’s account has been attacked as the former Test cricketer’s de facto brother-in-law and alleged kidnapper made a bid to be released on bail.
Four men are facing charges after the 50-year-old retired spin bowler was allegedly forced into a car, taken to a remote location, beaten and then dumped in Sydney’s west in April.
But MacGill’s account seemed to include exaggerations and inconsistencies, including about the use of a gun and the extent of the facial injuries he suffered, a lawyer for Marino Sotiropoulos said on Wednesday.
“When [his partner] saw him after his release, she didn’t see any such injuries to his face,” Ian Lloyd QC told the New South Wales supreme court bail hearing.
Sotiropoulos, the 47-year-old brother of MacGill’s partner, has been in custody since early May. He is charged with detaining in company, participating in a criminal group and supplying prohibited drugs. He denies being involved in the abduction.
The incident allegedly arose after an associate of MacGill named “Sonny” used fake banknotes in a $660,000 transaction for two kilograms of cocaine, the court was told.
Lloyd pointed to text messages in the crown case between the former sportsman and a friend that were “consistent with my client having not been involved in the kidnapping in any shape or form”.
MacGill texted a friend called “Jags” to “please” meet with Sotiropoulos.
“He’ll fill you in. I’m in real deep shit. I can’t leave the phone unless they find me,” MacGill said.
Further messages suggested Sotiropoulos was “trying to assist as a middle man trying to sort out a dispute”, Lloyd told the court.
But the crown said MacGill’s messages left a different impression – that he was scared of his partner’s brother and was trying to get someone else to meet with him.
It appeared Sotiropoulos had a trusted relationship and significant involvement with the drug hierarchy and had been offered $3,000 for each kilogram brick he could help recover, the prosecutor, Anthony Brookman, said.
While the Brighton-Le-Sands man appeared to take no part in the actual kidnapping, he had caused a meeting with MacGill and then introduced him to the alleged kidnappers.
“That’s a joint criminal enterprise,” the prosecutor said, dismissing suggestions the kidnapping case against Sotiropoulos was weak.
Sotiropoulos posed an unacceptable risk of fleeing, interfering with witnesses or committing serious offences if released on bail, Brookman said.
Lloyd disputed that assessment, submitting the likely 18-month wait for a trial could exceed the non-parole period Sotiropoulos would receive if convicted for his “minor” role in the drug supply.
Lockdowns in prison amid a Covid-19 outbreak also made preparing for a month-long trial onerous, he said.
Justice Richard Cavanagh agreed with the crown on the risks of release but said they could be mitigated with strict conditions.
That included house arrest except for a few circumstances when he must be with one of his parents, and a ban on crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge or contacting MacGill.
The alleged orchestrator of the kidnapping – 42-year-old Son Minh Nguyen – was granted bail in August after a judge accepted the crown case against him was not particularly strong.
Nguyen has denied prior knowledge of the kidnapping, pointing to evidence suggesting he told MacGill to find “$90,000 by lunchtime tomorrow” only for the abduction to occur that night.