A NSW man and a German national with suspected links to organised crime have been charged by the AFP for allegedly importing 320kg of cocaine into Western Australia.
A multi-agency investigation led to the arrest of the men, aged 37 and 49, in Port Hedland in the Pilbara on Sunday morning.
The older man was arrested in a campervan where investigators allegedly found the illicit drugs, which were in 320 individual blocks, each weighing about one kilogram. Those blocks were in eight packages wrapped in plastic.
Police believe the cocaine, worth at least $128 million, was destined for WA and other states.
The operation involving the AFP, Western Australia Police Force (WAPF), Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and Australian Border Force (ABF) is another blow against organised crime groups preying on Western Australia.
Police will allege the 37-year-old, a German national, flew into Australia earlier this month to help retrieve the drugs.
He allegedly met a 49-year-old NSW man in Port Hedland and the pair travelled to Karratha, about 240km away, where they hired a 6.5-metre boat.
They drove it to Port Hedland before later launching it from a local boat ramp and heading about 28 kilometres out to sea on Thursday and Friday evenings.
Police suspect the pair used the runabout to collect the cocaine from the ocean off the Pilbara mining town.
The men’s boat was seen idling close to an international bulk shipping carrier while offshore and investigations are continuing into suspicions that cargo vessel was used to import the drugs into WA waters from overseas.
The bulk shipping carrier was boarded by the WAPF Tactical Response Group and then searched by ABF, AFP and WAPF officers, and investigations continue.
The men have each been charged with:
- importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, namely cocaine, contrary to section 307.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth). The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment.
- failing to comply with an order issued under section 3LA of the Crimes Act 1914, contrary to section 3LA(6) of the Crimes Act 1914. The maximum penalty for this offence is 10 years’ imprisonment.
AFP Acting Assistant Commissioner John Tanti said the outcomes should send a strong message to organised crime groups looking to import drugs into Australia.
“Australia is no safe haven for criminals. We are coming after you and we will not stop,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Tanti said.
“This amount of cocaine could have been sold to about 320,000 Australians as if broken down into 1g street level deals and put about $128 million into the pockets of the criminals involved in its distribution.”
Information and Images sourced from here.