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Drugs Found on Yacht in Bundaberg, Australia

By Val Ellis last modified Nov 14, 2011 08:15 PM

Published: 2011-11-14 20:15:30
Countries: Australia

Tues 15th November 2011

FOUR Spanish nationals will appear in court today charged with importing about 300kg of cocaine into the Bundaberg Port.

The cocaine seizure was the fifth largest in Australia and worth an estimated $78 million at wholesale value. More than $3.5 million of cash was seized in operations in Bundaberg, Gold Coast and Sydney.The Australia Federal Police (AFP) are still counting the money which was found in boxes at a house on Bondi Beach.

A 35-year-old Spanish man and a 37-year-old Spanish woman were arrested on the yacht, ‘Friday Freedom’ which was moored at the Bundaberg Port Marina.

AFP national manager of serious crime and organised crime Assistant Commissioner Kevin Zuccato said it will be alleged a 38-year-old Sydney man and a 39-year-old Gold Coast man were collecting the drugs from the couple who had been at the marina for three weeks.

The four have been charged with importing a commercial quantity of narcotics and further charges are expected to be laid. Assistant Commissioner Zuccato said the drugs had been hidden in the hull of the ‘Friday Freedom’ which had left Vanuatu on October 14. He said it was not clear where the drugs had originated from but was "pretty confident that they came from South America". The seizure was the result of an operation, codenamed Avalon, which has been investigating an international money laundering syndicate since February this year.

The raids began after two cars, carrying about 90kg of the drug between them, was pulled over by police at the turtle roundabout on Bargara Rd about 10.30pm on Friday. Hundreds of kilos of the drug were later found on the yacht at the port marina, where the vessel was led into a dry work dock so members of the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Customs and Bundaberg police could search it extensively.

A shocked Lesley Grimminck, president of the Bundaberg Cruising Yacht Club, said the ‘Friday Freedom’ had taken part in the club's annual Port 2 Port Rally from Vanuatu this year. "They have participated in the events that we have had (at the marina) for the rally," she said. She said the pair had always appeared friendly, despite their English being a little patchy. Mrs Grimminck said she had not had much contact with the couple, but described them as ‘delightfu’". "They have just been one of the 85 boats which have been coming in for the rally," she said.

The club president said everyone involved in the rally had been shocked by the raids.

The NewsMail understands Bundaberg Port Marina staff were asked to move the ‘Friday Freedom’ to the customs jetty about 7.30am on Saturday so further searches could take place.