A 58-year-old British man is among five people arrested following the seizure of approximately 70 kilograms of cocaine from a yacht in Queensland, Australia.
Australian authorities launched an investigation into the yacht, the Solay, after receiving intelligence from the UK National Crime Agency that the cruiser was allegedly involved in transporting a substantial quantity of cocaine from South America into Australia.
The yacht was identified departing Vanuatu, bound for Australia on Saturday, 15 August 2015.
The Australian Border Force (ABF) monitored the vessel on its journey to Australia, with assistance from the Queensland Police Service (QPS). The Solay arrived in the Coomera area of the Gold Coast yesterday morning.
It will be alleged in court that upon arrival in a Coomera inlet, the 43-year-old Estonian master and sole occupant of the Solay met a 58-year-old United Kingdom national, and both men purchased a number of tools to remove items hidden inside the body of the vessel.
At approximately 5.45pm yesterday, the two men allegedly left the vessel with duffle bags and travelled by car to another Coomera location. A short time later, their car was then met by three other men driving in two vehicles.
AFP members arrested all five men and discovered approximately 40 kilograms of a substance believed to be cocaine inside one of the vehicles. A subsequent search of the yacht docked at the Coomera River marina located approximately 30 kilograms of a substance that presumptively tested positive to cocaine concealed within the yacht.
It is estimated this consignment would be worth approximately AUD $17.5million (just over £8million).
The investigation involved collaboration between the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Border Force (ABF) and Queensland Police Service (QPS).
The operation forms part of Operation Cringle, a long-term, multi-agency venture targeting organised crime syndicates using yachts and similar vessels to ship cocaine to Australia through the South Pacific region.
AFP Commander Organised Crime David Stewart said: ‘We believe this operation has disrupted and caused significant damage to a number of organised criminal enterprises that are seeking to profit from the high prices and demand for illegal narcotics in Australia.’
ABF Commander South Pacific, Phil Brezzo, said: ‘While these drugs may sell for a hefty price on the streets, the price importers pay when they get caught can be up to life in prison. Ask yourself, is that really worth the risk?’
QLD Police Service Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker State Crime Command said: ‘This Operation has resulted in a significant seizure of an illicit drug and the QPS will continue to work collaboratively with its law enforcement partners to prevent this type of drug having an impact on our community.’
A 43-year-old man and a 58-year-old British man have been charged with:
- Importation of a commercial quantity of a Border Controlled Drug under Section 307.1 Criminal Code 1995
A 59-year-old man, 67-year-old man and 29-year-old man have been charged with:
- Attempt Possession of a commercial quantity of a unlawfully imported Border Controlled Drug under Section 307.5(1) Criminal Code 1995 and by virtue of Section 11.1 Criminal Code 1995.
The men appeared in Southport Magistrates Court today with respect to these charges and were remanded into custody.
The maximum penalty for each offence is life imprisonment and/or an $825,000 fine.
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Australian law enforcement would also like to acknowledge the support provided to this operation by European authorities, including Irish Tax and Customs, the French National Customs Intelligence and Investigations Directorate (DNRED) and the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N).