It’s a case that raises more questions than answers.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Border Force (AFB) are claiming that three Canadian tourists carried bags stuffed with 95 kilos of cocaine into Sydney, after apparently having the time of their lives in several South American countries.
They say a law enforcement operation involving agencies from around the world resulted in a raid on the Sea Princess while it was docked in Sydney Harbour.
Officers searched the ship when it berthed, allegedly finding suitcases full of the illegal white powder. It is the biggest seizure of narcotics through a passenger stream into Australia.
The cocaine, with an estimated street value of over $30 million, is said to have been stashed in luggage linked to two women in their 20s and a man in his 60s.
The trio were arrested and charged with importing a commercial quantity of cocaine, an offence which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
The Sea Princess travelled from Southampton in England, where the three Canadians boarded, and stopped over at a number of South American countries, including Colombia, Peru and Chile.
The AFP is unable to say whether the drugs were loaded onto the ship during one of those stops, or how the passengers were able to have so much cocaine alongside their ‘regular’ belongings.
International operation led to bust
Law enforcement officials are claiming to have disrupted a major international crime syndicate which they say was attempting to flood Australian streets with illegal drugs, although no further details have been provided. The ship was destined for other ports in Australia, but authorities are unable to say which cities the drugs were ultimately intended for.
The defendants came before Central Local Court where they did not apply for bail, and were formally refused.
Not the first cruise ship seizure
Tim Fitzgerald, the regional commander for the ABF in NSW, says this is not the first cruise ship seizure in our state:
“We had a similar situation last year … but this is the largest,” he said.
He went on to speak of the AFB’s success in seizing drugs:
“Last financial year alone the Border Force intercepted 18,000 [importations of] narcotics at our various borders, international mail centres, airports, sea ports, sea cargo, air cargo — 22.5 tonnes of narcotics… have been detected in two years.”
However, most agree this is a drop in the ocean compared to the overall quantity of drugs imported into Australia.
The three defendants will face court again in October, unless their lawyers make an application for bail beforehand.
Their defence, if they have one, is not yet known – although 95 kilos seems a lot of cocaine unless some other party had a hand in the events.