Tuesday 25th Sep, 2018

Huge haul of cocaine seized after maritime chase off Byron Bay

Photo: Some of the drugs seized after maritime chase. Photo: AFP
Photo: Some of the drugs seized after maritime chase. Photo: AFP

LAW enforcement officers arrested two men and seized more than 600 kilograms of cocaine after a small craft was seen heading towards the Australian coast earlier this week.

The craft was spotted by ABF and Australian Defence Force (ADF) aerial surveillance assets that were assigned to the Maritime Border Command to patrol the ocean off the coast of northern New South Wales.

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MBC tasked ADV Cape Fourcroy to respond; as the vessel approached the craft, the men attempted to evade interception, jettisoning items into the sea.

Crew from Cape Fourcroy retrieved the items from the sea, which were found to contain more than 600 kilograms of cocaine, and gave chase, supported by ADF surveillance aircraft.

The small craft was intercepted about 40 nautical miles east of Byron Bay by specialist members of the Queensland Police Service.

A 36-year-old man and a 53-year-old man were arrested by members of the Queensland Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (QJOCTF). The two were charged with possession of a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug.

MBC commander Rear Admiral Peter Laver said the ABF is alert to the threat of criminal attempts to import illicit drugs using vessels targeting the Australian coast.

“Australia’s waters are vast, and we deploy a highly capable suite of ABF and Defence maritime surveillance and response assets at our disposal to detect and intercept illicit imports in collaboration with international, federal and state law enforcement and intelligence agencies,” he said.

“Our significant on-water presence has once again seen a large-scale importation of drugs thwarted, keeping hundreds of kilos of cocaine off Australian streets.”

“Illicit drugs are a national problem and this operation highlights the importance and effectiveness of our law enforcement partners working collaboratively to identify and disrupt these attempted imports,” Rear Admiral Laver said.

AFP Detective Superintendent Andrew Donoghoe said the result was an indication of the reach and co-ordination modern law enforcement enjoys in disrupting large-scale drug trafficking such as this.

“Not only was the syndicate involved in this operation up against the Queensland Joint Organised Crime Taskforce, they were also facing resources from Maritime Border Command and our international partners,” DS Donoghoe said.

“That we have stopped such a large amount of cocaine from hitting the streets of Australia is a testament to the combined efforts of all agencies involved.”

ADF acting chief of joint operations Major General Greg Bilton said the ADF was committed to the whole-of-government effort to protect Australia’s borders from illegal activity.

“This drug seizure, and subsequent arrests, is a wonderful example of interagency co-operation resulting in a great outcome for Australia,” Major General Bilton said.

Further warrants and enquiries are being executed and additional arrests may occur.




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