Pubdate: Sun, 21 May 2000
Source: Sun Herald (Australia)
Copyright: 2000 John Fairfax Holdings Ltd
Author: Sue Quinn, in Trieste


Alleged Australian drug trafficker Simon Main has hired OJ Simpson's
lawyer, while his co-accused is helping police with their
investigations into Europe's biggest ecstasy bust.

Main, who could face up to 20 years in prison, continues to protest
his innocence.

Police say he has hired Los Angeles celebrity lawyer Robert Shapiro -
part of the Dream Team who won Simpson's acquittal over his wife's
murder - as well as taking on a tough-talking Italian lawyer, Giuliano

The 30-year-old stepson of entertainer Barry Crocker is awaiting his
fate in prison in the northern Italian city of Trieste while Italy's
finance police and anti-Mafia investigators prepare their case.

Main and his co-accused, 26-year-old Briton Alex Bruell, have been
charged with a range of offences, including drug trafficking, after
the seizure of 80kg of ecstasy tablets last month.

Bruell is the stepson of a disgraced British aristocrat, the Duke of
Manchester, who was recently released from a Florida prison after
serving a three-year sentence for fraud. After initially refusing to
co-operate, Bruell is now helping police in the hope that his sentence
might be reduced.

Police say the handsome playboy broke down in tears after his arrest
and was persuaded to outline details of the smuggling operation.
According to reports in Italy, Bruell now accepts his evidence will be
crucial to convicting Main.

Main insists he had no involvement in the drug operation - that he was
in the wrong place at the wrong time and was in Italy as a tourist.

Officials from the Australian Embassy in Rome are in constant touch
with Main. His mother, former model Jenny Main, is known to have
visited him after flying to Italy from Sydney.

When police seized the 333,000 ecstasy pills in two Nike sports bags
from a sports car parked outside a beachside pizzeria on Easter
Monday, it was the culmination of a two-month investigation.

Bruell was targeted by Italian police after an underworld source
tipped them off that he was at the centre of a major drug-smuggling
operation. According to investigators, Bruell had taken delivery of
453,000 ecstasy tablets in Amsterdam two months before the Italian

Bruell, who is registered as a security consultant in California where
he and Main are based, first surfaced in Italy at the home of his
Italian girlfriend in the beachside resort of Lignano.

He was placed under 24-hour surveillance. "We created an invisible
cage around him," said Federico Frezza, the anti-Mafia prosecutor who
led the investigation.

But it was the around-the-clock monitoring of his mobile telephone
that first alerted police to another man - alleged to be Main - who
they say was going to collect Bruell's drug haul and export it to the
US, where the pills would have had a street value of almost $17 million.

Police say Main travelled from California to Rome in the weeks prior
to his arrest.

The net began to close on Main and Bruell when, police say, they began
to argue about where to meet for the handover of the drugs.

Finally, on April 24, the two agreed to meet outside a pizzeria in
Lignano. If they hoped to blend in, the pair failed spectacularly:
witnesses say their athletic good looks attracted plenty of attention.

"When we asked people in the pizzeria whether they had noticed Main's
presence all the women said, 'yes - he was fantastic'," a police
spokesman said.

Police swooped. In the boot of Bruell's car were the bags stuffed with
more ecstasy pills than police had ever seen.

No date has yet been set for Main and Bruell to appear before
Trieste's Tribunale, or law court, where a judge will decide if they
have a case to answer. They are being held in separate cells in the
Caraneo, Trieste's century-old prison.
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