EXCLUSIVE: Dubbed Australia’s real-life answer to Walter White from Breaking Bad, gym teacher turned drugs kingpin – Kevin Michael Geraghty – made one final appeal for freedom last week at a hearing in the NSW Supreme Court. Former student and True Crime News Weekly publisher, Serkan Ozturk, was in the courtroom for all the action.
It was a long way from the old school oval at Randwick Boys High School in Sydney’s east.
Appearing via video link from Clarence Correctional Centre near Grafton, 68-year-old Kevin Michael Geraghty looked much more slim and frail than he did in his pomp during the 1980s and 1990s, when this writer last physically laid eyes upon him in 1997.
Back then, ‘Mister Geraghty’ was an imposing and popular PE teacher who would command the attention of all and sundry with his muscles on clear display. He was particularly fond of tight tank tops and teeny gym shorts as part of his daily wear.
Yet this gym-honed physique was also backed up by a keen intelligence combined with an easygoing larrikin wit and charm. All attributes that would also allow him to rise to the top of his other ‘secret’ profession – cocaine trafficking. According to one former associate, Geraghty was widely known across town at one point during his hey day as “the biggest coke dealer in Sydney”. It has been alleged Geraghty began building his drugs empire from the mid-to-late-1980s and even had links to Colombian cartels involved in cocaine smuggling, including the infamous Pablo Escobar and his Medellín Cartel.
That position as the city’s top dog when it came to drugs trafficking came crumbling down in May 1997 following his arrest in a blockbuster transnational sting operation involving the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and their Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) counterparts from the USA. Geraghty was arrested at Penrith Panthers club after he was led to believe that a US military plane flown by corrupt pilots had landed at Richmond Airbase with hundreds of kilograms of cocaine aboard.
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Showing true dedication to his students at the time Geraghty even did a half-day’s worth of work at school on that particular Tuesday 25 years ago, before chucking a sickie in the afternoon to travel to Sydney’s west for what would be his eventual arrest over what was then Australia’s largest ever seizure of cocaine.
In a marked difference to Breaking Bad’s Walter White who gave away his chemistry teacher’s position at the first sign of success in the meth business, Geraghty somehow successfully managed to combine his dual careers for perhaps 10 years or more. There were few, if any, teachers as dedicated and inspiring to students as ‘Mister Geraghty’ was. Although sometimes his job as a big boss in the drugs world would collide with his teaching duties.
“I remember him being a great PE teacher but I do remember one day walking in on him in his office and he was snorting white powder,” one former student previously told True Crime News Weekly.
“He told me it was baking powder and he needed to get the powder just perfect as he was baking a cake for his sick grandmother. It’s only now that I realise that it was not baking powder.”
Geraghty had first come to the attention of the AFP in 1996, soon after the Wood Royal Commission into Police Corruption in the mid-1990s had weeded out some of his corrupt cop buddies at places like Kings Cross Police Station who may have been assisting with his operations by turning a blind eye and accepting bribes.
Sentenced to 25 years imprisonment, Geraghty would be released after serving just 15-and-a-half years of his term. While in prison, he was involved in one fight inside Long Bay Jail early on in his sentence during which he was allegedly ‘shanked’ by another inmate.
Within months of his release in 2013 however, Geraghty was up to his old tricks yet again and conspiring as the principal of a gang attempting to bring in huge amounts of cocaine into Australia. The AFP began watching Geraghty and his pals from August 2014 onwards as the men hatched a plan to bring in 1.4 tonnes of cocaine that was hidden aboard a yacht anchored off the coast of NSW.
Geraghty and his gang of largely elderly friends were eventually arrested in February 2017 with each of the men receiving lengthy sentences for their parts in the conspiracy. At the time of their arrest, the bust was once again deemed Australia’s biggest cocaine seizure. For not learning his lesson the first time, in early 2020 Geraghty was given a sentence of life imprisonment, with his first chance of parole not available until at least 25 years of the sentence is served, when he will be aged 91-years-old.
Kevin Michael Geraghty pictured in a Randwick Boys High School yearbook from the mid 1990s just prior to his arrest in 1997 (Image: Supplied)
With the realistic fear he may die in prison, Geraghty has launched one last ditch appeal for freedom.
At a hearing last week on November 11 at the Court of Criminal Appeal inside the NSW Supreme Court, the cocaine kingpin’s barristers argued that in convicting him again in 2020, prosecutors in the second case had relied far too heavily on “tendency evidence” in regards to Geraghty’s prior history as the head of a major transnational drugs smuggling operation.
“It’s a matter for the court to decide whether the tendency evidence was rightly submitted during his trial,” lawyers for Geraghty told the bench.
“It’s for the Crown to show some link between the tendency evidence and the conduct alleged.”
Crown Prosecutor Sean Flood argued that Geraghty’s prison sentence after 1997 was an appropriate explanation for why his tendencies to engage in drugs trafficking didn’t emerge for a 15 year time period as his environment to do so was so constrained.
“It’s not a tendency with generality, they are tendencies to specific acts. It was also cocaine, the same drug on each of the occasions,” the Crown Prosecutor said.
“Mr Geraghty took on a very specific role in overseeing how the conspiracy unfolded.”
Mr Flood then added: “It was evidence that was summarised and factually relevant in relation to Geraghty’s previous importation.”
However, the prosecution’s argument was questioned by the appeal judges who noted that it was not uncommon for criminals involved in drug dealing and other organised crime to continue to engage in criminal activity, even from behind bars.
There was also some mirth and chuckled laughter in the court room during debate over whether Geraghty’s alleged covert methods to avoid police detection – including the use of public pay phones – were “a bit out of date” by the time of his second arrest in 2017.
Dressed in prison greens, with thinning grey hair, Geraghty was largely motionless and silent throughout the proceedings and only became animated and began shaking his head when prosecutors mentioned some of his supposed management duties as part of the conspiracy.
The hearing took place in front of Acting Justice John Basten, Justice Richard Button and Justice Nicholas Chen with the bench reserving its decision to a future date yet to be decided but expected by early next year.
Although not a household name, Geraghty has previously come up in elite circles, when in 2002 then-Premier, Bob Carr, named the convicted drug dealer in NSW Parliament in an attempt to shame the then-Opposition leader, Kerry Chikarovski.
“The Leader of the Opposition vaulted over the barbed wire fence at Silverwater to have a lunch with Bassam Hamzy, Kevin Michael Geraghty, a cocaine importer, and Tarkan Tuncbliek [sic], who was serving six years for armed robbery,” Mr Carr said at the time.
Mr Hamzy is the founder of the notorious Brothers For Life gang and is serving a long jail sentence for murder in segregation inside Goulburn’s Supermax prison.
In 2009, Geraghty was once again in the headlines after an investigation by Melbourne’s The Age newspaper revealed that his tried-and-trusted method of importing cocaine from Colombia via Los Angeles to Australia was still being successfully used by men connected to him, including the notorious Maroubra surf gang, The Bra Boys. Employees who worked for catering and cleaning companies that serviced airlines would be used to collect shipments of cocaine dumped into the plane’s toilet bins.
True Crime News Weekly is currently in the early stages of developing a tv show or film inspired by the life and times of ‘Mister Geraghty’. The project has already received one offer from a major tv and film production company, while discussions are ongoing with other companies, including international outlets.