THE AUSTRALIAN Federal Police is investigating whether a boat seized at the home of a man charged with drug trafficking was used to collect drugs dropped at sea to be smuggled into Australia.
The man, from Darwin, allegedly directed the Australian activities of a Colombian-based organised crime group. The AFP dismantled the Australian criminal network on Thursday night.
The man allegedly received instructions from overseas about a shipment of cocaine smuggled into NSW.
He was one of nine people arrested across Queensland, the Northern Territory and New South Wales on the night of 21 July.
The network allegedly imported and manufactured up to 700 kilograms of cocaine under the direction of the Colombian organised crime syndicate.
A multi-state AFP operation tracked the syndicate allegedly couriering the cocaine from Sydney to a purpose-built extraction shed on a rural property around 300 kilometres northwest of Brisbane.
When police arrested the Darwin man on Thursday evening, they executed a search warrant at his home, where they found the 7.8 metre boat along with thousands of dollars in cash, electronic devices and steroids.
The boat is suspected to be an instrument of crime used to collect the illicit drugs dropped hundreds of miles off the Northern Territory coast.
AFP assistant commissioner Eastern Command Kirsty Schofield said the innovative investigation spanning three states had “struck a significant blow” to the crime syndicate targeting and operating in Australia.
“This was a sophisticated, ambitious and ruthless organised crime group that could order the movement of hundreds of kilograms of cocaine with one phone call,” Ms Schofield said.
“It is a great credit to our investigators that they were able to identify a suspicious person arriving into the country, follow the money trail and get one step ahead.
She said the investigation had stopped a very large shipment from being passed on to multiple distributors, reaching Australian streets and prevented millions of dollars from being pumped into the criminal economy.
“Australia’s high demand for illicit drugs and the prices Australians are willing to pay only encourage criminal syndicates to target Australia, and ultimately cause significant damage to vulnerable Australians and their families.”
The nine individuals were charged with a variety of serious drug and money laundering offences carrying maximum penalties of up to life imprisonment.
Investigations are continuing into the exact circumstances of how and when the cocaine was imported into Australia.