Record 1.4 tonnes of cocaine seized

Packages of cocaine that were seized from the yacht off the New South Wales coast by Australian police. High street prices in Australia are attracting drug smugglers.
Packages of cocaine that were seized from the yacht off the New South Wales coast by Australian police. High street prices in Australia are attracting drug smugglers.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SYDNEY • Australia has made its largest cocaine haul after seizing a yacht carrying 1.4 tonnes of the drug with an estimated street value of A$312 million (S$337 million).

Police said yesterday that the boat was stopped off the coast of New South Wales and six men were arrested. This operation follows a 21/2-year joint investigation between Australia and New Zealand.

A 63-year-old New Zealand man and a 54-year-old Swiss-Fijian dual national who were on board the yacht were taken into custody, while four men aged between 32 and 66 were arrested in Sydney.

Police allege that the yacht sailed from New Zealand to a "mothership" in the South Pacific to pick up the drugs last month.

The haul is the second record-breaking bust in recent weeks, with police dismantling a cocaine ring last December in a joint operation with Tahiti.

That was previously the largest haul of its kind, with the sting netting 1.1 tonnes of the drug in Tahiti and Sydney worth hundreds of millions of dollars, all destined for Australia.

With high street prices making Australia an attractive destination for drug smugglers, police say that they have stopped more than 11 tonnes of illicit substances bound for the local market in the past 18 months.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said that the street value of cocaine in Australia was up to nine times more than that of the United States.

Said Australian Federal Police deputy commissioner of operations Michael Outram: "We hope that this operation sends a strong message to anyone thinking of smuggling drugs: No matter how innovative or complex their ways are, our evolving detection methods and resources, including at sea, will keep up with them."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2017, with the headline 'Record 1.4 tonnes of cocaine seized'. Print Edition | Subscribe