The 51-year-old master of the 38,763 dwt Marshall Islands flagged bulk carrier Interlink Veracity was arrested yesterday by the Australian Federal Police (AFP). The man, a national of Montegro, was expected to be brought before a court in South Hedland, Western Australia, today. for his alleged role in a plot to import 320 kilograms of cocaine into Australia.
After his arrest aboard the ship, the man was charged with importing a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, namely cocaine. The offense carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment..
Authorities seized the cocaine – worth about US$90 million – in Port Hedland on May 15, and arrested two men who they alleged had collected the plastic wrapped drugs from the ocean off the coast of the Pilbara town.
The arrest of the bulker’s master followed a forensic examination of a mobile device seized from him last week allegedly uncovered messages relating to the drug importation.
Australian Federal Police, Western Australia Police Force and Australian Border Force officers searched the 179 meter bulk carrier again yesterday as part of ongoing inquiries into the alleged drug trafficking enterprise, which was disrupted after a multiagency investigation.
Police will allege that the 51-year-old man smuggled the cocaine onto the Interlink Veracity at an overseas port. He allegedly waited until the vessel was anchored in Australian waters about 28 kilometers off Port Hedland on May 14 and dropped the packages into the ocean for retrieval.
The two other men charged – a German national and a New South Wales man – allegedly used a small boat to pick up the drugs from the water that evening.
AFP Acting Assistant Commissioner John Tanti said the AFP and its partners had warned that the seizure of the drugs and initial arrests were just the start of the investigation, and they would be relentless in pursuing anyone involved in the venture.
“Trusted insiders are one of the highest threats to the integrity of Australia’s cargo supply chains,” said Tanti “Transnational organized 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 AFP is also working with international partners to target these organized crime syndicates offshore and ensure they cannot profit at the expense of Australian communities.”
- According to the Equasis data base, the 38,763 dwt, Marshall islands flagged Interlink Veracity is managed by Hamilton, Bermuda, based Interlink Maritime Corporation.