An illegal immigrant linked to a large-scale cannabis grow house network operating in Canberra has been deported despite warnings he could never face justice for his alleged involvement.
Ong Yap, 35, pleaded not guilty to participating in a criminal group in the ACT Magistrates Court earlier this year after police arrested him under Operation Armscote.
He was charged over his alleged role in the extensive hydroponic set-ups that ACT Policing said had netted 1226 plants with an estimated street value of more than $7 million seized from rental properties.
Yap, a Malaysian national, was released on bail in July despite complications that stemmed from the fact that he was in the country illegally and had overstayed his visa by more than a year.
Prosecutors did not oppose his release and the court heard it was highly likely that he would be deported immediately if he was set free.
Magistrate Peter Dingwall initially expressed concerns that Yap would not be able to return to court and meet his bail requirements if he was deported, which could mean he was unable to release him.
Prosecutors declined to withdraw charges or apply for a criminal justice visa to keep Yap in the country because it was rare and expensive.
That prompted Yap's lawyer Adrian McKenna, of Ben Aulich and Associates, to attempt to permanently stay proceedings.
Mr McKenna argued the prosecution's decision to not withdraw the charges or apply for a criminal visa represented an abuse of process that manifestly oppressed his client.
Yap was eventually granted bail and taken away by immigration authorities.
But Mr Dingwall warned he would consider any decision to deport the man as an interference in the court's jurisdiction, urging authorities to think "very carefully" before doing so.
Yap's case came before the Magistrates Court again on Friday, when Mr McKenna said his client could not appear because he had been already deported.
Mr McKenna said Yap's departure meant the court was left in "a hopeless position" and the outstanding charge could remain on the record forever without being dealt with.
He said Yap had been charged with "a relatively minor offence", had no prior criminal record and might never come back to the country.
"What actually happens with this charge?," he asked Special Magistrate Ken Cush.
But Mr Cush said he didn't believe there had been any abuse of process, despite earlier concerns raised in court, and ordered a warrant be issued for Yap's arrest over the alleged offence should he ever return to Australia.
– with Christopher Knaus