Huge Australia-bound cocaine haul seized by French navy

Packets of cocaine, bound for Australia, which was seized from a yacht intercepted by the French Navy in the Pacific on Aug 4, 2017.
Packets of cocaine, bound for Australia, which was seized from a yacht intercepted by the French Navy in the Pacific on Aug 4, 2017. PHOTO: AFP/AUSTRALIAN CRIMINAL INTELLIGENCE

SYDNEY (AFP) - A massive cocaine haul bound for Australia in the hull of a yacht has been intercepted by the French navy in the Pacific, officials said on Friday (Aug 4).

The 1.46 tonnes of the drug with an estimated street value of A$322 million (S$348 million) was seized in the South Pacific and four crew members, believed to be Lithuanian and Latvian nationals, arrested.

The vessel "Afalina", which set sail from South America, was towed to Noumea in New Caledonia, a French territory.

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission said it was working with its international partners to probe "the Lithuanian syndicate" and pinpoint exactly where the drugs came from after the seizure last week.

"We are thankful for the actions taken by French authorities which has stopped a significant amount of drugs reaching the streets of Australia," said commission executive director of intelligence Col Blanch.

"This demonstrates the importance of international law enforcement and intelligence agencies working together to effectively target transnational criminal enterprises." The drugs were destroyed on Wednesday in the furnace of a Noumea nickel plant, a spokesman for the company said.

With its high street prices, Australia is an attractive destination for drug-smugglers. The country also has a growing problem with ice addiction.

Last month, three men were charged for allegedly plotting to smuggle large amounts of ice from the United States to Australia in a light plane via the Pacific.