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Mark Russell

Smuggler denies culpability for all of $20m coke import

James Blee has pleaded guilty to importing a commercial quantity of cocaine and people smuggling. (Justin Brierty/AAP PHOTOS)

James Blee hopes to convince a judge he was involved in smuggling about 50 kilograms of cocaine into Australia, not 100kg, after the operation was uncovered when a Brazilian diver was found floating in Newcastle harbour.

Defence barrister Andrew Boe told the Newcastle District Court on Thursday there had been two parcels of cocaine involved in the importation but Blee, 63, a super yacht tour operator, claimed he was only criminally culpable for one parcel.

Mr Boe asked Judge Roy Ellis to order the NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to provide the defence with an outline of the evidence to be relied on to prove Blee's involvement in the total cocaine haul valued at $20 million.

Judge Ellis set down a timeline where the OPP had to hand over its evidence by February 16, with a contested sentence hearing for Blee listed for April 4.

Blee has pleaded guilty to importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug and people smuggling.

His son, James Lake-Kusviandy Blee, 22, has pleaded not guilty to one count of aiding and abetting his father in the importation of the drugs and one count of dealing with more than $100,000 from the proceeds of crime.

Mr Boe flagged there would be an application for Blee Jr, who is on bail, to have separate trials on the two charges.

The application will be heard on March 8.

Blee Sr, from Cairns, who is in custody and did not have to appear in court, has admitted arranging for two Brazilian divers, Bruno Borges Martins, 31, and Jhoni Fernandes Da Silva, 32, to be smuggled into Australia from Indonesia to retrieve cocaine from the bulk carrier Areti Gr Majuro in the Port of Newcastle last year.

Mr Martins was wearing specialist diving gear when his body was found on May 9 surrounded by about 54kg of bricks of cocaine. He is believed to have been trying with Da Silva to get the cocaine out of the hull of the ship.

Police suspect Da Silva escaped with millions of dollars in cocaine but he has never been found.

Blee Sr had initially been charged with manslaughter over Mr Martins' death following claims he had given the Brazilian diver faulty gear but this charge was withdrawn after his guilty pleas.

The two Brazilian nationals were believed have been smuggled into Cullen Bay, Darwin, from Indonesia on April 27 last year.

During Blee Jr's successful Supreme Court bail application in January, police claimed Blee Sr instructed his son to drive the two Brazilian divers to the port, pack the diving equipment and monitor what happened.

Police also claimed Blee Sr agreed to be paid $300,000 for organising to bring the cocaine into Australia, but about a third would be paid after the job.

Blee Jr allegedly travelled from Queensland to Sydney to pick up $110,000 in cash which was the amount owing to his father.

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