Australia Charges Two Over Yacht Cocaine Bust

July 24, 2023

Yachting Journal

(Photo: Australian Federal Police)

Two men in Australia have been charged with importing a commercial quantity of cocaine as part of an investigation into 247 kilograms of cocaine seized from a yacht moored in Townsville. 

The men, both from Griffith in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and aged 55 and 44, were arrested at their apartment on July 20, 2023, and brought up on charges by the Australian Federal Police (AFP). The maximum penalty for theier offences is life imprisonment.

Police allege one of the men threw a backpack containing $290,000 cash in a vacuum sealed bag from the apartment balcony when the AFP knocked on the front door and announced they had a search warrant. It will be alleged the cash is proceeds of crime.

It’s alleged the men travelled to Townsville from Canberra in May to recover a commercial quantity of cocaine that was hidden inside the yacht’s hull. The yacht arrived in Townsville in April after sailing from Vanuatu. After a comprehensive search of the vessel in the water on arrival, officers still believed the vessel posed a threat and restricted the vessel to port for 90 days whilst investigations continued. Once out of the water, Australian Border Force (ABF) and Australian Federal Police officers found minor anomalies with the vessels hull. Using a variety of mechanical tools, ABF and AFP officers removed 247kg of cocaine hidden in enclosed sections.

Investigations into the seized drugs are ongoing.

Both men appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court on July 21 before being extradited to Brisbane on July 22. Each appeared in Brisbane Magistrates Court on July 24.

AFP Detective Superintendent Adrian Telfer said the cocaine trade fueled violence on Australian streets and increased the power of organized crime. “Every time someone buys cocaine they are lining the pockets of organized crime gangs who are responsible for violence here in Australia and around the world,” he said. “This amount of cocaine has an estimated street value of $61,750,000. That’s money which criminal groups would use to buy weapons, corrupt officials and governments overseas and turn the Pacific into an illicit drug superhighway.”

“The AFP and our partners, through the Queensland Joint Organized Crime Task Force (QJOCTF) work to stop drugs, like cocaine, hitting our shores because illicit drugs contribute to the road toll, child neglect and domestic violence,” Telfer continued. “The investigation remains ongoing and we do not rule out more arrests in the future.”

ABF Commander James Copeman said this is yet another example of Australian Law Enforcement Agencies working closely together to protect the Australian community. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a container laden with heroin, an envelope full of methamphetamine or a sailing vessel packed with cocaine, our officers have the skills, technology and inquisitive mindset to detect it.”

Queensland Police Service Chief Superintendent Craig Morrow said, “Joint operations like these combine the resources and intelligence of each enforcement agency to detect, disrupt and deter the illegal drug trade in our country.”

“Targeting the illegal drug trade by disrupting the supply and the distribution networks is a priority for all law enforcement agencies. The aim is to stop them from entering our community and causing untold damages to people and families.”