Three men jailed after yacht carrying almost one tonne of meth

Three men have been sentenced to a combined 37 years’ jail for their roles in a mid-ocean transfer of nearly a tonne of methamphetamine that police later intercepted on a yacht sailing off the NSW coast.

The three men sailed a yacht called the Mo’Chuisle, which was laden with 992kg of methamphetamine, about 750km from Mexico to the vicinity of Norfolk Island, in April 2020.

Once there, they transferred the methamphetamine into another yacht called the La Fayette that had sailed about 1400km from Mooloolaba, Queensland, with two crew on board.

The illicit drugs had an estimated street value of $495 million.

When the Mo’Chuisle docked in Noumea, New Caledonia, local authorities – French Customs and French National Police – searched the yacht. They found evidence of the drug transfer and passed information to the Australian Border Force (ABF) and AFP, which started Operation Romani to investigate the drug transfer.

The ABF’s Maritime Border Command located the La Fayette on 17 April 2020 sailing towards the east coast of Australia.

The next day the New South Wales Police Force Marine Command intercepted the La Fayette, with the methamphetamine on board, about 50 nautical miles east of Lake Macquarie (NSW). The two men aboard the La Fayette when it was intercepted have already been sentenced to prison.

On 24 April 2020, the three men who sailed the Mo’Chuisle to New Caledonia arrived on a flight at Brisbane International Airport, where they were arrested and charged with conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug.

The men all pleaded guilty on 3 November 2022 and were sentenced yesterday (16 November, 2022) in the Brisbane Supreme Court.

  • A United Kingdom man, 40, was sentenced to 18 year’s imprisonment with a non-parole period of 11 years.
  • Another United Kingdom man, 55, was sentence to 7.5 years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of 4.5 years.
  • A US man, 32, was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of 7 years.

The two men who sailed the La Fayette to Norfolk Island to collect the methamphetamine were both sentenced in July 2021.  A dual UK-South African national, 35, was sentenced to 16 years and six months’ in jail, while a New Zealand national, 34, was sentenced to seven years and six months in jail.

AFP Detective Acting Superintendent Luke Wilson said the multi-agency effort demonstrated the AFP’s determination to work with partner agencies, in Australia and abroad, to stop organised crime from sending drugs to Australian shores.

“The AFP and our partners have shown the importance of working together to protect the Australian community and our commitment to dismantling and disrupting organised criminal groups anywhere we find them,” Det-A/Supt Wilson said.

“Because of this joint effort, hundreds of kilograms of methamphetamine did not reach Australian streets – stopping enormous harm to our communities and making our streets safer.”

ABF Acting Commander Trade and Travel East, Elke West, said the ABF continues to play a frontline role in protecting the Australian community from criminal activity and the supply of dangerous drugs.

“The Australian border is the gateway to our community at large and our officers are committed to detecting and deterring the importation of illicit substances,” A/g Commander West said.

“This result demonstrates that the ABF has a wide range of assets and capabilities that help keep us a step ahead of those who seek to profit from causing others harm.

“We continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners, but also the community has an important role to play. If you see something suspicious at the border, you can report it anonymously to Border Watch.”