Saturday August 24 2013
– Federal police are investigating if any Australians were connected to the second largest shipment of cocaine bound for our shores and seized in Vanuatu this week.
It was revealed yesterday the Australian Federal Police, along with Customs and the US Drug Enforcement Administration, found 750kg of cocaine on a yacht known as the Raj docked at Port Vila in Vanuatu.
The drugs, with a street value of about $370 million, originated from South America.
The AFP said yesterday they were likely at the hands of serial drug traffickers.
It was the second biggest haul captured that was bound for Australia, topped only by a 938kg haul of cocaine off the Western Australian coast in 2001.
The haul was the largest under Project Cringle, set up in 2010 to target the region’s drug trade.
Arrests are likely to be made over the latest shipment, possibly within the next month, police said.
The cocaine was found hidden under a concrete slab in the lower engine compartments of the yacht and around the keel area of the hull.
The drugs were “particularly well hidden”, according to authorities, and police had to use a chisel to get them out. No one was on board when the seizure was made.
Vanuatu Police assisted with the capture.
AFP assistant commissioner Ramzi Jabbour said yesterday the same drug syndicate was involved in another alleged importation attempt in 2011.
He said the latest seizure had prevented an estimated 750,000 individual drug deals from hitting Australian streets.
“Whilst there have been no arrests at this stage of the investigation…it is an ongoing matter,” he said.
“We are working actively with out regional counterparts, both in the Pacific and more broadly in the international arena.”
Assistant commissioner Jabbour said drug smugglers would continue to find it harder to import to Australia as the AFP worked in closer collaboration with its regional partners to crack down on the trade – Lanai Scarr