By Kirra Grimes
THE evidence against former South Gippsland Shire councillor Jeremy Rich, arrested on over a dozen drugs and firearms charges in April, will be laid out at a committal hearing at the end of November, the Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court has heard.
Three witnesses will be called to give evidence under cross examination at the November 29 hearing, which is expected to take no longer than a day.
One of the witnesses, a botanist based in Melbourne, will give evidence via video link.
The date of the hearing was set by Magistrate Simon Garnett at a committal mention at the Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court at Morwell last Thursday, July 11, attended by Rich and his lawyer, Steven Pica.
Rich – who was arrested on April 15 and released on bail under strict conditions the following day – sat in the gallery as Pica discussed details of the committal hearing with the magistrate, and successfully applied to have Rich’s bail varied.
Under the new bail conditions, Rich, who resides in the Melbourne suburb of Armadale, is required to report to Malvern Police Station once a week – reduced from three times a week, as the original conditions stipulated.
He’s also allowed to return to the Walkerville property ‘Marapana Farm’, where the alleged drug and firearm offences occurred – something that was not allowed under the original conditions.
Rich was not required to speak during the brief court appearance, and after a short conversation with Pica outside the court room, exited the complex alone, rushing past waiting media before driving off in a luxury SUV parked nearby.
In response to questions, he would only say that it was “not appropriate to comment at this time”.
Rich, 45, along with 34-year-old Serbian national Bojan Vukovic, and 50-year-old Simon Cox of Brunswick, was arrested at Marapana Farm (owned by his family’s company, Ansevata Nominees) on Monday, April 15, following a police raid that allegedly uncovered evidence of cannabis cultivation and trafficking, as well as other illicit drugs and unlicensed weapons.
Cox was released on summons later that day to face a minor possession charge at the Korumburra Magistrates Court; while Rich and Vukovic were charged with a range of serious offences including trafficking a commercial quantity of a drug of dependence, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years imprisonment.
Rich is facing 15 charges in total, relating to alleged cultivation, possession and trafficking of cannabis; possession and trafficking of ecstasy; and possession of cocaine, hash oil, an unlicensed rifle and an unlicensed shotgun.
Vukovic is facing 12 narcotics related charges. His committal mention will take place at the Latrobe Valley Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, August 8, 2019.