Lake Macquarie Trio Accused Over Massive Cocaine Import

                                                              AFP officers with seized cocaine | Image supplied.

A Lake Macquarie trio are accused of helping to smuggle an estimated $160 million worth of cocaine into Queensland by sea.

Australian Federal Police officers swooped on the three men on Sunday at a regional boat ramp about 24km south of Gladstone.

A search of their 8.2 metre fishing vessel allegedly uncovered about 500kg of a powder suspected to be cocaine, split into bricks and stored in waterproof bags.

The substance returned a presumptive positive result for cocaine and further forensic testing will determine its exact weight and purity.

It will be argued in court the three men collected the drug haul from a larger cargo ship out at sea and ferried it back to shore.

Residential properties in Newcastle and the Central Coast were raided by the AFP, along with a vessel at the Port of Gladstone and a Tannum Sands motel as investigations continue.

The Morisset Park man, 66, Charlestown man, 45, and Lake Macquarie man, 27, were all charged with one count of possessing a commercial quantity of an unlawfully imported border controlled drug, contrary to Section 307.5(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

The offence carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

All three men were put before Gladstone Magistrates Court on Monday where they were remanded in custody pending their next court appearance on July 19.

AFP Commander John Tanti said alleged criminals attempting to collect drugs from larger ships and import them into Australia were risking their lives often in dangerous conditions.

“This alleged attempt to collect cocaine from the ocean shows the extreme lengths criminals will go to in an attempt to bring illicit drugs into Australian communities for their own greed and profit, but the AFP and its law enforcement partners are constantly working to remain one step ahead,” Commander Tanti said.

“We estimate 500kg of cocaine has an estimated street value of more than $162 million and has the potential to facilitate more than two million individual street deals and cause tens of millions of dollars in harm to the Australian community.

“Investigations into the origin of the drugs remain ongoing, and we will work with our international and domestic law enforcement partners to identify the criminal syndicates and anyone else involved in facilitating this alleged attempted drug import.

“We want to assure the Australian community we are working tirelessly to keep these dangerous drugs off the streets.”

ABF Acting Commander Jim Ley said it’s through the joint work of our partner agencies and shared intelligence that this shipment was able to be intercepted before it made it to shore.

“The diligence of our law enforcement partners to keep the Australian community safe is paramount – criminal syndicates don’t respect or observe borders, showcased here through the cross border collaboration with our state, federal and international colleagues,” Acting Commander Ley said.

“This seizure amounts to over two million individual street deals which will no longer get into the hands and homes of Australian families, the ABF will continue to work with our partner law enforcement agencies to protect the Australian community from these insidious syndicates and harmful drugs.”

Anyone with information about this shipment is urged to come forward and contact Crime Stoppers.

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