Australian police seize cocaine-filled vessel off NSW coast

Photo: Australian Federal Police

A 27-year-old South Australian man has appeared in Sydney Central Local Court following the seizure of approximately 200 kilograms of cocaine allegedly located on board a vessel off the New South Wales coast.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) said it had obtained intelligence in relation to a cargo vessel allegedly containing a large quantity of cocaine bound for Australia.

The AFP established Operation Poitiers with the New South Wales Police Force, Australian Border Force, New South Wales Crime Commission, and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission on March 6.

Australian authorities tracked the cargo vessel, identified as MSC Joanna, as it made its way to Sydney.

Through Maritime Border Command, ABF officers provided ongoing monitoring of the vessel, including planning the aerial and on-water response.

It has been alleged in court that police enquiries into the illicit drugs and the transnational criminal syndicate behind it linked a the 27-year-old suspect to the alleged drug importation.

Aerial surveillance observed the suspect launching a small vessel from Taren Point and meeting MSC Joanna off the coast of Sydney before sunrise (local time) on Thursday, March 11.

Police allege 11 green lidded crates containing 199 blocks of cocaine were offloaded from the cargo vessel at sea and transported to the smaller vessel. The smaller vessel then made its way back to shore before being intercepted by NSW Police Force officers.

The suspect was arrested at sea and conveyed to Balmain, Sydney, by a police vessel. He was subsequently charged with:

  • Importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, namely cocaine, contrary to section 307.1 (1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).
  • Possessing a commercial quantity of an unlawfully imported border controlled drug, namely cocaine, contrary to section 307.5 of the Criminal Code (Cth).
  • Dealing in money or other property which is the proceeds or instrument of crime, greater than AU$100,000 (US$77,290), contrary to section 400.4 of the Criminal Code (Cth).

The smaller vessel was also transported to Balmain where the 11 crates containing approximately 200 kilograms of cocaine were offloaded.

The seized cocaine has an estimated street value of AU$90 million (US$69.5 million).

Forensic specialists are currently examining the drugs seized and will be conducting further testing to determine the exact weight and purity of the drugs.

Following the arrest, police followed MSC Joanna until it docked at Port Botany. Police then executed a search warrant on the vessel, with the assistance of ABF officers and the Detector Dog Unit.

Police, with the assistance of ABF officers, also seized approximately AU$500,000 (US$386,400) in cash from a storage unit in Caringbah, NSW, allegedly linked to the suspect.

Investigations are continuing into the man’s alleged associates and the transnational criminal syndicate allegedly behind the drug importation.

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