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Mark Russell

Son denies role in cocaine plot that led to diver dying

A Brazilian diver's body was found in Newcastle Harbour surrounded by about 54kg of cocaine bricks. (HANDOUT/NSW POLICE)

The son of a superyacht tour operator who organised a $20 million cocaine smuggling plot, which was uncovered when a diver was found floating in a harbour, has formally denied any involvement.

James Lake-Kusviandy Blee, 22, the son of James Blake Blee, 63, appeared in Newcastle District Court for the first time on Thursday via audio-visual link from the Gold Coast.

Blee Jr 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.

Defence barrister Andrew Boe told the court Blee Sr, who has pleaded guilty to importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug and people smuggling, wanted to be sentenced as soon as possible given he had now been in custody for 18 months.

James Blee Sr (file image)
James Blee Sr has pleaded guilty to importing a commercial quantity of cocaine and people smuggling.

Blee Sr, from Cairns, who did not 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 108 kilograms of cocaine from the bulk carrier Areti Gr Majuro in the Port of Newcastle last year.

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

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with manslaughter over Martins' death following claims he had given the Brazilian diver faulty gear but this charge was withdrawn after his guilty pleas.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, between 1pm and 10pm on April 27 last year.

Mr Boe told the court on Thursday there was an issue about the police statement of facts concerning Blee Sr.

He said the large quantity of cocaine smuggled into Australia had been divided into two parcels and Blee Sr denied culpability over the second parcel.

Judge Roy Ellis pointed out if Blee Sr had imported 50kg or 100kg cocaine, he was still facing a lengthy jail sentence.

Judge Ellis agreed to adjourn the case to December 14 to give both parties time to try to agree on the statement of facts.

He set down a sentence hearing date for April 4 next year.

In the case of Blee Jr, Mr Boe said the allegations against his client involved a 24-hour period as to whether or not he had been assisting his father.

He said Blee Jr might require separate trials on each charge.

The defence barrister said the alleged evidence against Blee Jr in the aiding and abetting case was four hours of CCTV footage.

He said there were no witnesses describing what Blee Jr had allegedly done.

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

Police also claimed Blee Sr agreed to be paid $300,000 for organising the cocaine importation, 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.

Judge Ellis on Thursday adjourned Blee Jr's case to December 7 to estimate how long the trial will take and set down a trial date.

Blee Jr's bail was continued.

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