ALMOST half a tonne of cocaine has been seized on a yacht near Brisbane in one of the biggest drug busts in Australian history.
Three New South Wales men have appeared in Queensland Magistrates Court and were remanded over the haul.
The seizure followed a tip-off from US authorities, which federal Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said showed how important "good, working relationships'' with overseas counterparts were to tackle the "transnational challenge'' of crime.
An estimated 464kg of cocaine - worth about $160 million - was allegedly discovered on the yacht, moored at the Scarborough Marina, about 40km north of Brisbane.
Australian Federal Police and Customs raided the yacht, which was allegedly delivered the drugs from a "mother ship'' that was sitting 800km off the Queensland coast and is now being towed to Brisbane.
It is the third-largest seizure of cocaine in Australia and is believed to be have been smuggled from South America.
The biggest cocaine seizures to occur in Australia include 938kg in Western Australia in 2001 and 502kg in NSW in 2000, a spokeswoman for Mr O'Connor said.
AFP deputy commissioner Andrew Colvin said two men on board the boat being towed to Brisbane, from Costa Rica and Germany, had been detained.
The AFP charged three men on Tuesday, two with attempted importation of a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug and the other with possession.
Another 12 search warrants across New South Wales and Queensland, allegedly uncovering a clandestine lab in Eden on the NSW south coast.
Yesterday, Customs and Border Protection officers intercepted and boarded the second vessel of interest about 800km off the Queensland coast.
"This operation demonstrates that there are no borders and we're keeping watch on every corner,'' Mr Colvin said.
"Customs and Border Protection has been the AFP's partner in this operation and their expertise has been critical to success.
“Support from NSW and Queensland Police also shows how effective Australia's law enforcement agencies can be with a collaborative and harmonious approach.”
Customs and Border Protection deputy CEO of border enforcement Marion Grant said the operation had spanned two states and involved law enforcement activity up to 800km off Australian shores.
"Our officers persevered through 13-metre seas, constant bad weather and incredibly long days,” Ms Grant said.
October 14, 2010
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