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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald

Jail over almost one tonne of meth seized off coast of Lake Macquarie

Australian Federal Police raiding the vessel. Picture by AFP

Three men have been sentenced to a combined 37 years in jail for their roles in the mid-ocean transfer of almost one tonne of methamphetamine - with an estimated street value of $495 million - brought from Mexico and discovered on a yacht off the coast of Lake Macquarie.

The Australian Federal Police said the men sailed a yacht called the Mo'Chuisle, which was laden with 992kg of the drug, from Mexico to the vicinity of Norfolk Island in April 2020.

Once there, they transferred the methamphetamine into another yacht - the La Fayette - that had sailed from Mooloolaba, Queensland, with two crew on board.

French Customs and French National Police searched the Mo'Chuisle when it docked in New Caledonia and found evidence of a drug transfer - information they passed on to the Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force.

The Australian agencies started Operation Romani to investigate.

The ABF's Maritime Border Command found the La Fayette sailing towards the east coast of Australia on April 17, 2020 and the NSW Police Marine Command intercepted the vessel about 50 nautical miles east of Lake Macquarie.

Six days later, the trio who sailed the Mo'Chuisle arrived on a flight into Brisbane International Airport and were charged with conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug.

All three pleaded guilty earlier this month and were sentenced in Brisbane Supreme Court on Wednesday.

A 40-year-old man from the UK was handed an 18-year prison term, with 11 years non-parole; a 55-year-old UK man was sentenced to 7.5 years with 4.5 years non-parole; and a 32-year-old US man got 12 years with seven years non-parole.

The pair from the La Fayette were sentenced to jail in July - 16.5 years and 7.5 years respectively.

AFP Detective Acting Superintendent Luke Wilson said the multi-agency effort demonstrated the AFP's determination to work with partner agencies in Australia and abroad to stop organised crime.

"The AFP and our partners have shown the importance of working together to protect the Australian community and our commitment to dismantling and disrupting organised criminal groups anywhere we find them," he said.

"Because of this joint effort, hundreds of kilograms of methamphetamine did not reach Australian streets - stopping enormous harm to our communities and making our streets safer."

ABF Acting Commander Trade and Travel East Elke West said the ABF continued to play a frontline role in protecting the Australian community from criminal activity and the supply of dangerous drugs.

"The Australian border is the gateway to our community at-large and our officers are committed to detecting and deterring the importation of illicit substances," Acting Commander West said.

"This result demonstrates that the ABF has a wide range of assets and capabilities that help keep us a step ahead of those who seek to profit from causing others harm.

"We continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners, but also the community has an important role to play. If you see something suspicious at the border, you can report it anonymously to Border Watch."

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