AUSTRALIA Federal Police are appealing for public information regarding sightings and occupants of a 10m cabin cruiser in the waters north of Kangaroo Island in South Australia on 14-15 March.
The ship is separated from the bulk carrier linked to an AFP-led investigation sparked by the seizure of 416 kilograms of cocaine floating in waters off the Yorke Peninsula.
The blue and white boat, registered in South Australia, was unmanned when authorities towed the vessel ashore. It remains in the custody of law enforcement agencies.
AFP Commander Erica Merrin said members of the public with information about the boat or its occupants were urged to contact AFP at 131 AFP (131 237) or Crime Stoppers at 1800 333 000.
“Today I am appealing to the public to come forward if they have any information about this ship. Please note that you can do this anonymously,” said Commander Merrin.
Police estimate the value of the cocaine seized at $166 million.
Four men between the ages of 29 and 44 who were crew members of the shipping company were charged on March 31 in connection with the alleged illegal importation of drugs. They appeared before Adelaide Magistrates Court on April 1, 2022.
The Filipino foreign nationals have been remanded in custody and are scheduled to appear again in Adelaide Magistrates Court on April 28, 2022 on charges of importing a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs, namely cocaine. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum of life imprisonment.
After the men were charged, the bulk carrier was given permission to leave Australian waters.
AFP said last week it was leading an investigation into alleged cocaine importation by the cross-border serious organized crime community.
The multi-jurisdictional operation involving the AFP, the Australian Border Force (ABF), the South Australia Police (SAPOL), the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and the Department of Home Affairs is another blow to organized crime in South Australia and at the national level. The investigation is ongoing and further arrests are expected.
Commander Merrin said cross-border serious organized crime threatens Australia’s national security, economy and the lives of its loved ones.
“AFP has an ongoing struggle with illegal motorcycle gangs, Mexican cartels, organized crime in Italy and those attacking Australia from the coast,” said Commander Merrin.
“The transnational serious organized crime smuggles illegal drugs into Australia for profit. It’s all about the money. Unfortunately, parts of the population have an insatiable appetite for illegal drugs. This drives trade and dominates the question of profit.”