Dream over for drug paddlers
AUSTRALIAN authorities tracked a yacht allegedly smuggling 70kg of highgrade cocaine worth $17.5 million for about 10 days on the high seas before arresting its skipper and four other men outside Dreamworld on Monday.
Acting on an international tip-off, agencies were monitoring the 13-metre Solay when it left Vanuatu on August 15 with one of the biggest cargoes of cocaine seized in Queensland in recent years.
Federal and state police and Border Force officers waited for several hours as two men – including the skipper – bought tools to remove more than half the cocaine hidden in the walls of the yacht after it had docked at Coomera. According to police, the men moved the cocaine in duffel bags to a car, which they drove to the nearby Dreamworld theme park to meet three other men.
Just after 6pm, police swooped on the carpark – arresting five men and seizing 40kg of South American cocaine “secreted in the rear of one of the cars”.
A search of the luxury yacht moored on Coomera River uncovered another 30kg of the substance.
“This is a huge setback for this syndicate,’ said AFP Commander Organised Crime David Stewart.
“We had a sole occupant that was actually the skipper of the yacht – the other four people were members of the syndicate operating on the land here in Queensland.
“This is a result of international co-operation between law enforcement agencies and bor- der force agencies across the globe,” he said. Australian agencies began their investigation, codenamed Operation Lamister, earlier this month based on intelligence provided by several European customs and crime agencies.
The yacht’s 43-year-old Estonian skipper was arrested with a 58-year-old United Kingdom national, and three Australian men, aged 29, 59 and 67. The five men appeared in Southport Court yesterday and were remanded in custody on charges including importation of a commercial quantity of a bordercontrolled drug, and attempted possession of a commercial quantity of an unlawfully imported border-controlled drug.
The maximum penalty for each offence is life imprisonment and/or an $825,000 fine.
Head of the State Crime Command’s Drug and Serious Crime Group Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker said the seizure was one of the biggest the state police had been involved with. The Solay was towed to Brisbane, where it will be searched again.