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Joint Queensland operation nets cocaine haul on yacht

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Media Release: Joint Queensland operation nets cocaine haul

on yacht

Release Date:

Tuesday, August 25 2015, 12:31 PM

This is a joint media release between the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force and Queensland

Police Service.

A joint operation between law enforcement partners has resulted in the arrest of five people and seizure of

approximately 70 kilograms of cocaine from a yacht in Queensland.

The investigation involved collaboration between the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Border Force

(ABF) and Queensland Police Service (QPS).

The operation forms part of Operation Cringle, a long-term, multi-agency venture targeting organised crime

syndicates using yachts and similar vessels to ship cocaine to Australia through the South Pacific region.

Australian authorities commenced the investigation, code-named Operation Lamister, earlier this month based on

intelligence provided through the UK National Crime Agency (NCA).

Information suggested a yacht, the Solay, was allegedly involved in transporting a substantial quantity of cocaine

from South America into Australia.

The yacht was identified departing Vanuatu, bound for Australia on Saturday, 15 August 2015.

The ABF monitored the vessel on its journey to Australia, with assistance from the QPS. The Solay arrived in the

Coomera area of the Gold Coast on the morning of Monday, 24 August 2015.

It will be alleged in court that upon arrival in a Coomera inlet, the 43-year-old Estonian master and sole occupant

of the Solay met a 58-year-old United Kingdom national, and both men purchased a number of tools to remove

items hidden inside the body of the vessel.

At approximately 5.45pm yesterday, the two men allegedly left the vessel with duffle bags and travelled by car to

another Coomera location. A short time later, their car was then met by three other men driving in two vehicles.

AFP members arrested all five men and discovered approximately 40 kilograms of a substance believed to be

cocaine inside one of the vehicles. A subsequent search of the yacht docked at the Coomera River marina located

approximately 30 kilograms of a substance that presumptively tested positive to cocaine concealed within the


It is estimated this consignment would be worth approximately $17.5 million.

AFP Commander Organised Crime David Stewart said law enforcement partners would continue to work together

to disrupt the activities of organised crime groups.

“A united approach from law enforcement and border protection agencies - both in Australia and internationally -

is crucial in detecting and dismantling organised criminal networks,” Commander Stewart said.

“We believe this operation has disrupted and caused significant damage to a number of organised criminal

enterprises that are seeking to profit from the high prices and demand for illegal narcotics in Australia.”

ABF Commander South Pacific, Phil Brezzo, said the operation shows the importance of cooperation and shared

intelligence across the South Pacific to target small craft vessels.

“The Australian Border Force is vigilant across the full spectrum of the border. We are agile and adept at

identifying and disrupting attempts at illegal importation regardless of method: whether that involves airports,

seaports, mail centres or anywhere in between,” Commander Brezzo said.

“While these drugs may sell for a hefty price on the streets, the price importers pay when they get caught can be

up to life in prison. Ask yourself, is that really worth the risk?”

QLD Police Service Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker State Crime Command said: “This Operation has

resulted in a significant seizure of an illicit drug and the QPS will continue to work collaboratively with its law

enforcement partners to prevent this type of drug having an impact on our community.”

A 43-year-old man and a 58-year-old man have been charged with:

Importation of a commercial quantity of a Border Controlled Drug under Section 307.1

Criminal Code 1995

A 59-year-old man, 67-year-old man and 29-year-old man have been charged with:

Attempt Possession of a commercial quantity of a unlawfully imported Border Controlled Drug under

Section 307.5(1) Criminal Code 1995 and by virtue of Section 11.1

Criminal Code 1995


The men appeared in Southport Magistrates Court today with respect to these charges and were remanded into


The maximum penalty for each offence is life imprisonment and/or an $825,000 fine.

Australian law enforcement would also like to acknowledge the support provided to this operation by European

authorities, including Irish Tax and Customs, the French National Customs Intelligence and Investigations

Directorate (DNRED) and the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre - Narcotics (MAOC-N).

Media enquiries

AFP Media: (02) 6131 6333

ABF Media: (02) 6264 2244