25 August 2015
An international operation involving the National Crime Agency has led to the seizure of around 70 kilos of cocaine and the arrest of a British man in Australia.
The 58-year-old was one of five men arrested by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Border Force (ABF) and Queensland Police Service (QPS) in the Gold Coast area of Queensland on Monday 24 August.
It followed information supplied by the NCA regarding a yacht, the Solay, which had left South America heading towards the South Pacific allegedly transporting a substantial amount of cocaine.
The NCA was working in collaboration with Border Force in the UK's National Maritime Information Centre (NMIC), the French Customs investigation service DNRED, Irish Tax and Customs and the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N).
The yacht was tracked as it travelled towards Australia, departing Vanuatu on Saturday 15 August.
After arriving in Queensland it is alleged that the 43-year-old Estonian master and sole occupant of the Solay met the 58-year-old UK national, and both men purchased a number of tools to remove items hidden inside the body of the vessel. The two men allegedly left the vessel with duffle bags and travelled by car to another 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 located approximately another 30 kilograms. It is estimated this consignment would be worth approximately A$17.5 million (£8 million).
Tom Dowdall, deputy director of the NCA’s Border Policing Command, said:
“Organised crime networks work across international borders, so it is crucial law enforcement does the same.
“Those involved in the illegal trade in class A drugs should know that our reach is global and we will continue to do everything in our power to disrupt you and bring you to justice.
“This was a fantastic result for our Australian colleagues and it demonstrates the value of our strong international links.”
Australian Federal Police Commander David Stewart said:
“A united approach from law enforcement and border protection agencies – both in Australia and internationally – is crucial in detecting and dismantling organised criminal networks.
“We believe this operation has disrupted and caused significant damage to a number of organised criminal enterprises that are seeking to profit from the high prices and demand for illegal narcotics in Australia.”
All those arrested have been charged and appeared before magistrates in Southport, Queensland.