$17.5 million of cocaine found in Gold Coast drug bust
FIVE people have been arrested after the seizure of around 70kg of cocaine from a yacht in Queensland.
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.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Border Force (ABF) and Queensland Police Service (QPS) commenced the investigation, code-named Operation Lamister, earlier this month based on intelligence provided through the UK National Crime Agency (NCA).
Information suggested a yacht, the Solay, 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 and was monitored until it arrived in Coomera on the Gold Coast yesterday morning.
Police will alleged in court that once the yacht arrived in Coomera, 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 $17.5 million.
A 43-year-old man and a 58-year-old 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.