THE Brisbane Supreme Court has sentenced two brothers, aged 39 and 45, to 28 and 25 years imprisonment for their roles in a 2018 plot to import over 500 kilograms of cocaine into Queensland.

The Queensland Joint Organised Crime Taskforce operation in collaboration with the Australian Border Force foiled the cocaine importation in a dramatic at-sea apprehension off the Queensland coast on 31 July 2018.

The 39-year-old and a 56-year-old man, who has previously been sentenced over this matter, were bringing the cocaine to shore in a small rigid-hulled inflatable boat when Australian Defence Vessel Cape Fourcroy tried to intercept them.

ABF and Australian Defence Force aerial surveillance assets, which were assigned to Maritime Border Command, were monitoring the men as they threw packages of cocaine into the water and tried to evade the ADV vessel. MBC is a multi-agency taskforce within the ABF tasked to conduct civil maritime security operations in Australian waters.

The ADV Cape Fourcroy crew retrieved the packages from the sea, which were later identified as containing cocaine.

The men and their boat were later intercepted by Queensland Water Police approximately 40 nautical miles east of Byron Bay.

The 39-year-old and 45-year-old were charged by the Queensland Joint Organised Crime Taskforce with possessing a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Further investigations led the AFP to raid a home in New South Wales on 20 June 2019, where they arrested the 45-year-old man. He was subsequently extradited to Queensland and charged with a drug importation offence.

On 12 February 2020, the 56-year-old man pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Supreme Court for joint commission of an offence of importing a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs. He was sentenced to a maximum of 13 years imprisonment, to serve four years and three months before becoming eligible for parole.

The two brothers were sentenced to 28 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 16 years, and 25 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 12 years.

Acting ABF Regional Commander for Queensland Joanne Churchill said the ABF remains highly alert to the threat of criminal attempts to import illicit drugs using vessels targeting the Australian coast.

“Working together with our law enforcement partners, our combined efforts have once again seen a large-scale importation of drugs thwarted, which in this case has kept hundreds of kilos of cocaine off our streets. Today’s sentencing sends a strong deterrence message to those who may think of engaging in this illegal activity,” Acting Regional Commander Churchill said.

AFP Commander Andrew Donoghoe said this operation showed the effectiveness of the combined efforts of law enforcement.

“The ultimate result of this operation is that a large amount of drugs never made it to Australian shores; into our cities, towns and impacting our families,” Commander Donoghoe said.

“This should stand as a continued warning to organised crime syndicates that the full strength of Australian law enforcement is working together to stay a step ahead. We will seize your drugs, arrest your agents and put them before the court.”

Detective Superintendent Col Briggs said the Queensland Police would continue pursuing organised crime syndicates and the illicit drug trade in Queensland in close partnership with QJOCTF members.

“A significant number of QPS officers were involved in this operation, working alongside agency partners. The success of the operation is a result of these established and close partnerships and highlights the skill, dedication and professionalism of all officers involved,” Detective Superintendent Briggs said.

The Queensland JOCTF targets organised crime and comprises a team of specialists from the AFP, Queensland Police Service (QPS), the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), ABF, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).