Two men charged in Australia over 560-kilogram cocaine bust

SYDNEY (dpa): Two men were charged over their alleged involvement in the importation into Australia of some 560 kilograms of cocaine, authorities said on Sunday.

A 45-year-old man is accused of travelling to the state of Western Australia (WA) in July to collect the cocaine from the ocean near the town of Denham, some 840 kilometres north-west of Perth, after the drugs were allegedly dropped overboard from a bulk cargo carrier, police said in a statement.

Police allege that a 53-year-old man also travelled to the western state for the attempted drug collection and would have been responsible for driving the drugs to the eastern state of Queensland.

Federal and WA police found about 560 kilograms of cocaine, estimated to be worth $224 million Australian ($150 million US) wrapped in plastic as they executed a related warrant at a property in the town of Kalbarri, south of Denham.

Police said that three other men from Queensland, aged 29, 32 and 49, were arrested at that property and were alleged to have bought a boat and used it to collect the cocaine from the ocean.

Police said they believe the 45-year-old and the 53-year-old, who were arrested in late November, were originally supposed to retrieve the drugs from the sea, Australian police said.

The two men were charged with attempting to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug and face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted. They are expected to appear before court again in January.

Australian Border Force Commander Ranjeev Maharaj said the force made 4,296 detections of cocaine, with an estimated total weight of 4,769 kilograms, from 1 July, 2022 to 30 June, 2023, a 166% increase compared to the previous 12 months.

"Organised crime syndicates are relentless in their efforts to flood our shores with cocaine, with the motivation being greed and profit," Maharaj said. "While these crime syndicates are relentless, so are we."

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