‘Tonne of ice’ allegedly found inside yacht off NSW coast
A yacht suspected of carrying hundreds of kilos of Mexican meth was boarded under the cover of darkness by elite NSW police before the alleged traffickers knew they were being watched.
Australian Federal Police got a tip from authorities in New Caledonia on Thursday about a suspicious boat which had just sailed into their waters from Mexico. The AFP was told a second vessel could be heading Australia's way.
"There were some irregularities on the hull of the vessel that they located which indicated that the vessel may have … rubbed alongside another vessel at high seas," AFP assistant commissioner Justine Gough said.
Police allege that the vessel in New Caledonia had previously met a 50-foot yacht named La Fayette at sea, handing over at least 600kg of methamphetamine, or ice.
"So we allege the transfer took place to the second vessel … somewhere off the coast of Norfolk Island," Ms Gough said.
On Friday, Australian Border Force officers allegedly spied the La Fayette headed towards Lake Macquarie near Newcastle. They contacted NSW Police and began planning an "on water interception".
The NSW Marine Area Command's Nemesis vessel left Balmain on Friday and tracked the La Fayette throughout the night.
The Nemesis sent a crew in a small boat to board the yacht at 4am on Saturday before it became visible on the horizon to the crew.
NSW assistant commissioner Stuart Smith praised the boarding team for what they did next. "They came up from the rear of the vessel under the horizon line and they moved into an interdicting point where the border team got onto the ship before anyone was aware that it had occurred," Ms Smith said.
"I take my hat off to the men and women who performed that."
The two crew Mark Bishell, 33, from New Zealand and UK national Sebastian Barnard, 34, were arrested and charged with commercial drug importation. They have been remanded in custody until April 28.
Originally published as 'Tonne of ice' allegedly found inside yacht off NSW coast