Police are investigating links between a suspected cocaine haul and a man found dead in the Hunter River.
Emergency services were called to Heron Road at Newcastle at about 9:30am yesterday following reports of an unconscious diver on the shore.
Despite members of the public and NSW Ambulance Paramedics best efforts the man could not be revived and is yet to be formally identified.
A number of packages were located nearby containing more than 50kg of white powder, which testing has since confirmed to be cocaine.
It has a potential street value of $20 million.
Organised Crime detectives, assisted by officers attached to the Australian Federal Police are heading up the case and are working to identify whether the body and the illicit drugs are related.
Organised Crime Squad commander Detective Superintendent Rob Critchlow said they are investigating reports of suspicious activity on the water on Sunday, May 8.
A large ship, the Areti, was moored in the vicinity where both the body and the illicit drugs were found, and a pair of smaller boats were also spotted around midnight.
“A small inflatable rubber boat and a 5-metre aluminium Quintrex runabout with a green stripe was seen also near the ship conducting some sort of task which we haven’t confirmed yet in the darkness,” Superintendent Critchlow said.
They are seeking public assistance to identify both small vessels.
The Areti arrived in Australia from Argentina carrying soy bean powder, and has been searched top to bottom over the last 24 hours and her crew interviewed by police.
It is expected to be allowed to leave it’s berth tonight.
A search of the surrounding waters by the Marine Area Command and Police Divers is back underway today, assisted by officers from the Australian Border Force.
Anyone with information that may assist Organised Crime Squad investigators is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence.