Australian Border Force (ABF) drug detector dogs have sniffed out a stash of cocaine hidden aboard an international cruise ship that docked in Sydney in late November 2017, resulting in the arrest of four people and the seizure of about 30kgs of cocaine.
The cruise ship departed the United Kingdom in mid-October 2017 before arriving in Sydney on Thursday, 30 November 2017.
The four accused came to notice after they were selected for further scrutiny following joint activity between the ABF and United Kingdom Border Force (UKBF).
Supported through an extensive Department of Immigration and Border Protection offshore network, the ABF worked collaboratively with foreign partners, ensuring officers were able to identify the passengers attempting to import the cocaine.
On its arrival, the ABF boarded the cruise ship and searched a number of cabins as well as public areas.
During the search, an ABF drug detector dog reacted to a bag located in a stairwell. Further inspection of the bag by ABF officers revealed approximately 15kgs of cocaine hidden inside.
A further search of the ship’s public areas resulted in approximately 15kgs of cocaine being detected in a box containing deck chair cushions.
The ABF referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police (AFP). AFP officers boarded the cruise ship, and subsequently arrested a 41-year-old Belgian woman and three French nationals, being a 61-year-old man, a 54-year-old man, and a 32-year-old woman.
The four accused were subsequently charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, namely cocaine, contrary to subsection 307.1(1) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).
They appeared before Sydney Central Local Court on Friday, 1 December 2017, where bail was refused. They will reappear in early 2018.
AFP Commander Justine Gough, Manager Crime Operations, said law enforcement and border protection agencies have seized record amounts of cocaine in 2017.
“The AFP remains focused on reducing the harm caused by drug use by working with our Australian and international partners to detect and prevent the importation of illicit drugs into Australia no matter what methods are used.
“We’ve seen the damage cocaine causes when it reaches Australian communities. The health effects on drug users, the increases in domestic violence, the increases in property crime and the increases in assaults,” Commander Gough said.
ABF acting Assistant Commissioner Jo Crooks said: “Through the collaborative efforts of Australian and international counterparts, our officers identified the four individuals attempting to import around 30kg of cocaine into our country, long before they reached our shores.
“This detection is a testament to the dedication and professionalism of a vast network of law enforcement officers around the world focused on disrupting the supply of drugs destined for the Australian community.”