Three arrested over alleged 500kg cocaine import in Queensland

The AFP has charged three NSW men over an alleged 500kg import of cocaine into regional Queensland.

The three men were arrested on Sunday (28 April, 2024) at a regional boat ramp after allegedly collecting 500kg of cocaine from a larger cargo vessel at sea.

A Morisset Park man, 66, a Charlestown man, 45, and a Lake Macquarie man, 27, faced Gladstone Magistrates Court yesterday (29 April, 2024) and were remanded in custody.

The AFP launched Operation Ocean to investigate the alleged importation of illicit drugs into Queensland.

The AFP, with the assistance of Queensland Police Service officers from Gladstone Criminal Investigation Branch, arrested the men when they returned to shore in an 8.2m fishing boat at the Boyne Island boat ramp, about 24km south of Gladstone.

The AFP searched the vessel and allegedly found 15 black and yellow waterproof bags that each contained about 32 blocks of a powdered substance. Each block weighed about 1kg.

The substance returned a presumptive positive result for cocaine. Further forensic testing will determine the exact weight and purity of the drug.

The AFP executed search warrants at a motel in Tannum Sands and the residential premises of the men in Newcastle and the Central Coast of NSW.

On Monday (29 April, 2024) a further search warrant was executed on a vessel anchored in the Port of Gladstone. Investigations are ongoing.

The three men were 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 maximum penalty is life imprisonment.

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.”