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Australia's biggest cocaine interception: 1.4 tonnes seized, six charged

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Australia's biggest cocaine interception: 1.4 tonnes seized, six charged


This is a joint media release between the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Border Force, the New Zealand

Customs Service and the Organised Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand.

A long-running Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigation supported by the New Zealand Customs Service

(NZCS), Organised Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand (OFCANZ), the Fijian Transnational Crime Unit, French

Polynesian authorities and Australian Border Force (ABF) has resulted in the seizure of more than 1.4 tonnes of


Six men, aged between 32 and 66, have been charged with serious drug importation offences as a result of this


In August 2014, the AFP received intelligence from the NZCS about a conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of

border-controlled drugs into Australia.

Police will allege a sailing vessel, the


, travelled from New Zealand to a ‘mothership’ in the South Pacific

Ocean last month to collect the drugs.

Shortly before midnight on Thursday, 2 February 2017, the HMAS


intercepted the


. Maritime Border

Command (MBC) personnel boarded the vessel, and the two crew members - a 63-year-old New Zealand man and

a 54-year-old dual Swiss/Fijian national - were detained under the

Maritime Powers Act 2013 (Cth)


Black bags containing a large quantity of blocks were discovered on the vessel. Initial testing of the blocks returned

a positive result for cocaine with an estimated weight of approximately 1422 kilograms (1.4 tonnes).

This amount of cocaine has a street value of approximately $312 million, though further forensic testing will be

conducted to determine exact weight and purity.

On Friday, 3 February 2017, two Sydney men - aged 63 and 62- travelled to the NSW South Coast, where they met

a 66-year-old man. Police will allege the three men intended to launch a motor vessel to meet the


at sea

before returning to shore with the drugs.

The AFP arrested and charged the three men with conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled

drug. They appeared in Nowra Local Court on Saturday, 4 February 2017, and were refused bail. They will reappear

in the Central Local Court on Wednesday, 8 February 2017.

On Friday, 3 February 2017, police arrested a fourth man in Sydney who is also alleged to be involved in the

conspiracy to import the cocaine.

On Sunday, 5 February 2017, the HMAS


returned to Sydney with the


and its detained crew. The

two men were arrested on arrival, and were later also charged with conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of a

border controlled drug. They are scheduled to appear in the Central Local Court today (6 February 2017).

The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment or 7500 penalty units or both.

AFP acting Deputy Commissioner Operations, Neil Gaughan, said the investigation has spanned more than two-

and-a-half years, and its success was a testament to the tenacity and dedication of the investigators involved.


“Our officers based in Brisbane have been doggedly pursuing this matter since 2014. The interception of this huge

volume of drugs and the charging of these six men is a testament to the officer’s drive and determination,” acting

Deputy Commissioner Gaughan said.

“It also highlights the importance of our close working relationships with our local and internal law enforcement

partners - without which this operation could not have succeeded.”

Deputy Commissioner Operations Michael Outram said Australian Border Force officers worked tirelessly with our

law enforcement partners over the course of the investigation culminating in one of the biggest drug seizure in

recent times.

“We hope that this operation sends a strong message to anyone thinking of smuggling drugs: no matter how

innovative or complex their ways are, our evolving detection methods and resources, including at sea, will keep up

with them,” Deputy Commissioner Outram said.

Chief of Operations Maritime Border Command, Air Commodore Jake Campbell, said the successful outcome of the

operation showcases the sophisticated work of the MBC, Australia’s leading civil maritime security authority.

“The unique multi-agency blend of the MBC means we have at our disposal advanced technology, resources and

highly trained officers to target, detect and seize illicit drugs before they reach our border,” Chief of Operations

Campbell said.

New Zealand Customs, Group Manager Intelligence, Investigations and Enforcement, Jamie Bamford, said this

significant seizure is the culmination of a 3-year investigation by New Zealand Customs into the activities of the

Elakha and its crew.

“Intelligence obtained by Customs was shared with the Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force and

this seizure is testament to the strong partnerships and cooperation between New Zealand, Australia and Pacific

nations focused on combatting drug smuggling operations in the region. Our partnerships enable us to act as one

and our sophisticated intelligence capabilities and commitment prevent drugs reaching our communities,” said Mr



otes for media:


Footage and stills of this operation may be obtained here:

Media enquiries:

AFP National Media + 61 2 6131 6333

NZCS Media +64 21 823 708

ABF Media + 61 2 6264 2244


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