Man holding vacuum sealed cannabis

Australia’s most infamous cannabis criminals


When it comes to infamous cannabis criminals, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone mentioning the names of Australians. Despite that, we thought it’d be interesting to discover which Aussies have dabbled in the drug trade.

There’s one name which you’ll likely already know – it involves a girl, her bodyboard, and the wonderful island of Bali. But the rest, we think may surprise you. Let’s get into it.

Murray Riley

Whilst serving as a police officer from 1943 to 1962 in Sydney, Riley also represented Australia in the Olympic rowing team, even winning a Bronze medal in 1956.

Despite his criminal career officially beginning after retiring from the police, many believe they were one and the same. As during a murder trial, a barrister challenged Riley over a possible fabricated confession, as well as Riley’s offer to destroy the confession if he was paid a bribe. Not the most upstanding officer.

Riley seated 3rd from left in the 1952 Olympic Rowing Squad
Riley seated 3rd from left in the 1952 Olympic Rowing Squad

His cannabis ordeals came in 1978 after many years of organised criminal activity under his belt. Riley had planned to smuggle 4.5 tonnes of cannabis from Thailand to Australia. There was some issues along the way, and the police seized the cannabis after it was offloaded in Camden River, NSW. Riley was charged with being a “transportation agent” of 1.5 tonnes of cannabis, and sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment.

After escaping from prison twice, he went on to take part in a multimillion-pound IRA counterfeit racket. Following which he settled in Hong Kong, and then Australia.

Born in 1925, Riley is now 95 years old. Although his status, and whether he’s still alive or not, is unverifiable.

Milton Orkopoulos

Serving as a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from 1999 to 2006, Milton Orkopoulos was also appointed Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Minister Assisting the Premier on Citizenship in 2005.

It all came tumbling down in November 2006, after the police commissioner released details that Orkopoulos was about to be charged with child sex offences. He was soon arrested and charged with more than 30 offences. Including child prostitution, sexual assault and supplying illegal drugs. He was also charged with using taxpayers’ money to pay a teenage boy to have sex with him.

Milton Orkopoulos
Milton Orkopoulos

Two years later, Orkopoulous was found guilty of 28 offences relating to sexual assault of a minor, indecent assault and supplying heroin and cannabis. He was sentenced to 13 years and 11 months in jail and was released on parole in late December 2019.

Schapelle Corby

The one, the only – Schapelle Corby. After being found with 4.2 kg of cannabis inside her bodyboard bag at Bali’s main airport, Corby soon became the centre of attention from Australian and worldwide media.

Despite claiming her innocence that she did not plan to smuggle the drugs, and that the cannabis was planted in her bag, she was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment at Kerobokan Prison.

Over 100,000 Australians signed a petition believing Corby is innocent and should be freed. The locals, on the other hand, had a different outcome in mind, with protestors gathering at the Australian embassy in Jakarta , demanding the death penalty and holding signs with comments such as “Corby, drug dealer, must die”.

Schapelle Corby behind bars
Schapelle Corby behind bars

Multiple failed appeals later as well as petitioning the Indonesian President, she was released on parole in 2014 after serving 9 years in jail. Following the completion of her parole, she was deported to Australia in 2017. There’s a whole lot more to this story, but you’ve likely already heard it all so we’ll keep it short.

If you’d like to learn more, you can do so here.

Allison Durbin

Born as Allison Ann Giles, she was known as the Queen of Pop throughout the 1960s and 1970s whilst performing using the name Allison Ann Durbin.

Released in 1968, her single “I Have Loved Me a Man” became a No. 1 hit in New Zealand and also a hit in Australia. In the following three years, she won the Australia’s King of Pop Award for Best Female Artist. Which led her to be known as the Queen of Pop.

Allison Ann Giles Then Now
Allison Ann Giles – Then & Now

Unfortunately, as her career died down throughout the late 70s and 80s, she turned to drugs and began using heroin as a substitute. After voluntarily checking herself into rehab, she was struck by a car just two days after leaving the centre.

She went on to perform as a country music singer in the late 1980s. Two decades later is when cannabis came into play. In 2007, she was jailed for 12 months due to her role in trafficking cannabis.

Nick Paltos

Greek-born in 1940 as the youngest of ten children, his family went on to migrate to Australia when he was 7 years old. He left school at the young age of 13 to work at a chrome metal factory, and a while later, he won a scholarship to study medicine at the University of New South Wales.

This led to 9 years of working at the Sydney Hospital, following which he took up private practice in Woolloomooloo. Despite his high paying career and elite clientele, such as NSW Supreme Court chief justice Laurence Street and media tycoon Kerry Packer, Paltos had a severe gambling problem plaguing him throughout his life.


With debts mounting and no means to pay, he turned to criminal activities. In particular, the important of hashish. A little while later in 1986, he pleaded guilty to conspiring to importing 5.5 tonnes of hashish – yep, tonnes. He ended up spending 8 years in jail, and passing away in 2004.

Robert Trimbole

If you’ve ever watched the hit series Underbelly, you can partly thank this guy for inspiring the show to be produced. Born in 1931, Robert Trimbole was an Australian businessman, drug baron, and organised crime boss.

He was the entrepreneurial type, operating as a self-employed mechanic, as well as panel beating and spray painting. Unfortunately, it didn’t all go to plan, with Trimbole declaring bankruptcy in 1968 with debts of $11,000. Not giving up, he went on to build an empire worth $2 million through restaurants and other businesses.

Going unchallenged, Trimbole further invested in farms, cars, speedboats, clothing stores, a liquor store, a wholesale wine business, a trucking company, a supermarket, and more land to further his orange and grape growing capacity. He soon became known as “The Godfather”.

Robert Trimbole
Robert Trimbole

Did we mention he also organised all the pickers for many of the cannabis farms around NSW? Well he did, and he was raking it in, with some farms worth upwards of $25 million. And when Donald Bruce Mackay, a local politician, blew the whistle and told the police where some of his farms were, you can bet he wasn’t happy when they came barging in.

Unfortunately for Mackay, his name was read out in the evidence, which led to him disappearing in the Griffith Hotel car park after having drinks with friends in 1977. A little later in 1981, Trimbole and his mate Nick Paltos (above), were recorded by police chatting on the phone about his pending arrest for conspiracy to murder Mackay.

He fled, and managed to stay on the run for another 6 years, dying in a Spanish hospital in 1987. His body was returned to Australia for the funeral, where mourners and journalists brawled – making news headlines across the country.

Know of any more infamous Aussie cannabis criminals we missed? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Stay informed with the latest cannabis news in Australia.

Stay informed with the latest cannabis news in Australia.

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