A transnational drug trafficking investigation is underway after police found about 365 kilograms of cocaine in coastal waters in Western Australia’s Great Southern region.
The AFP is calling for public assistance to help locate three men who officers want to speak to about the illicit shipment, which police believe was collected from the ocean in the area.
An investigation started when the Western Australia Police Force (WAPF) alerted the AFP about the rescue of three men from the ocean off Albany on 1 February, 2023, after their story of capsizing while fishing appeared inconsistent.
Six days later, a black plastic-wrapped package containing multiple smaller packages of cocaine washed ashore near Denmark. The next afternoon, (Wednesday, 8 February, 2023), a seven-metre boat was found overturned off Peaceful Bay, about 45km west of Denmark.
When police retrieved and searched the cabin cruiser they allegedly found another eight similar plastic-wrapped packages, each containing about 40kg of cocaine.
Police believe the drugs were collected from the ocean and loaded on-board the seven-metre boat.
How and where the drugs were dropped in the water is still being investigated.
Two of the men who police want to speak to, aged 49 and 45, are from WA. The third man, aged 36, is believed to be in the Northern Territory. One of the WA men is the registered owner of the boat where the illicit drugs were found.
AFP acting Commander Graeme Marshall urged the three men to contact police.
“We are also appealing for anyone else to call us if they have information to help us find the men, or know anything about this drug importation,” he said.
“The interception of this amount of drugs would be a significant blow to a well-resourced syndicate, and prevents millions of dollars of drug profit from flowing back into the group to fund their next criminal venture or lavish lifestyles.
“The AFP estimates this seizure has saved the community more than $235 million in drug-related harm, including associated crime, healthcare and loss of productivity.
“Organised crime syndicates employ a variety of methods to try to smuggle large amounts of drugs into Australia without detection.
“We believe this amount of cocaine would have been distributed across Australia and not just in WA.
“There is a perception by some in the community that cocaine is a safe drug. Let me be clear – it is not. Just as importantly, the transnational serious organised criminals who prey on Australia are undermining our national security, economy and social security system.
“The AFP and our partners will continue to target and disrupt criminals based locally and offshore who are importing drugs, to ensure we can protect the Australian community.”
ABF Superintendent Shaun Senior said ABF officers continuously monitored a range of vessel types operating in and around shipping lanes, ports and harbours across the nation, to proactively identify suspicious activity.
“We understand that the Australian border is one of our most critical national assets, and along with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to make the border a hostile environment for criminals trying to import illicit drugs,” Superintendent Senior said.