Wed. Jul 6th, 2022

The captain of a cargo ship has been charged over his role in the attempted smuggling of 320 kilograms of cocaine onto Western Australia’s shores.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) allege the 51-year-old man from Montenegro carried cocaine, worth about $ 128 million, on a bulk shipping carrier called Interlink Veracity that he was in charge of.

It’s claimed the man loaded the drugs onto the cargo vessel at an overseas port, then traveled into Australian waters.

On May 14 the drugs, wrapped in plastic packaging, were dumped into the ocean about 28 miles off Port Hedland in WA’s north-west, police said.

The packages were then retrieved by two men who had sailed out on a small boat.

Police arrest a man
An AFP officer puts the captain of the bulk carrier in a car after his arrest.(Supplied: Australia Federal Police)

A 49-year-old New South Wales man and a 37-year-old German national were arrested the next day for collecting the commercial quantity of cocaine.

Police will allege they found the drugs, wrapped in 1kg blocks, in a campervan in Port Hedland.

Several packets purportedly containing cocaine
Police say the drugs were destined for the east coast. (Supplied: Australian Federal Police)

Police say a forensic examination of the ship captain’s mobile revealed messages relating to the drug smuggling attempt, after which the man was also arrested.

AFP Acting Assistant Commissioner John Tanti said the initial arrests were only the beginning of a multi-agency investigation into the alleged drug trafficking enterprise.

“Trusted insiders are one of the highest threats to the integrity of Australia’s cargo supply chains,” he said.

“Crime syndicates rely on people who are willing to abuse the access and influence they have through their employment to help bring illicit drugs into Australia, as the accused is alleged to have done in this case.”

The Deputy Commissioner stands at a podium while the police minister looks on.
Deputy Police Commissioner Col Blanch and Police Minister Paul Papalia say they have set their sights on international drug syndicates.(ABC News: Rebecca Trigger)

WA Police Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch said the joint investigation between WA Police, the AFP and Australian Border Force will aim to “systematically pull apart” drug syndicates.

“We will pursue you regardless of your role or your location in the world,” he said.

Captain walked off ship by police
Police will allege that the ship captain smuggled the drugs onto the cargo vessel Interlink Veracity.(Supplied: Australian Federal Police)

The captain has been charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug, and is due to appear at South Hedland court today.

The offense carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

The two men who allegedly collected the drug packages have been remanded in custody and are due to appear in court on June 15.

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