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Drug Bust at Port Bundaberg

18 November 2011
The vessel Friday Freedom was next to us in New Caledonia and only 3 slips away from us in Bundaberg! The young couple did everything to fit in with the cruiser crowd by attending all the events put on by the Bundaberg Yacht Club for the Port-2-Port Rally. The couple was very young, but they did seem to be one of the cruisers. One never knows.

Some questions we have regarding this:
1) Why did Customs wait more than a month after Friday Freedom checked-in to finally bust them?
2) Why did the Spanish couple hang around for over a month doing nothing but riding skateboards around the marina and docks while 300kg of coke was stashed in the boat?

Just doesn't make any sense to us...things that make you go HMMMMM?

Read the Story Here >>>Drug Bust In Bundy

MARK COLVIN: Bundaberg in far north Queensland is best known for sugar and rum. But today law enforcement agencies have foiled an attempt to ship a much more valuable commodity through the city.

Authorities say they've seized nearly $80 million worth of cocaine from a yacht at the Bundaberg marina.

The Spanish crew of the yacht was competing in a race.

Brendan Trembath reports.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Australian authorities believe they've dealt a significant blow to an international crime syndicate.

State and Federal police and the Customs and Border Protection Service say they've found a large stash of cocaine on a 16 metre yacht named Friday Freedom.

It was crewed by two Spanish nationals, a man and a woman in their 30s.

Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner Kevin Zuccato says the drug bust follows a long investigation.

KEVIN ZUCCATO: The total seizure of cocaine is around about 300 kilos, valued at $78 million wholesale. We've also conducted a series of search warrants, one on the Gold Coast at which we found $290,000 in cash. And we also found in a residence in Bondi five boxes full of Australian currency. We're counting that at the moment. We're up to about $3.5 million and still going.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Friday Freedom arrived off the coast of Bundaberg on a Thursday evening late last month. When the yacht left Vanuatu six days earlier it was already under surveillance.

Authorities in Vanuatu helped out and the boat was tracked by Australian Customs and Border Protection as it sailed across the Coral Sea.

Assistant commissioner Zuccato says the investigation began early this year when police started looking into suspicious money transfers going overseas.

KEVIN ZUCCATO: A surveillance operation was mounted and we followed the two suspects that we had for many months. And those suspects took us to Northern Queensland to the town of Bundaberg.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Police allege the Spanish men, one from the Gold Coast and one from Sydney, arrived in Bundaberg on Friday to meet the boat. They were arrested over the weekend and their fate will be determined in the courts.

The boat's two Spanish crew members are also facing charges. They were competing in a yacht race.

Lesley Grimminck from the Bundaberg Cruising Yacht Club.

LESLEY GRIMMINCK: Bundaberg Cruising Yacht Club, of which I'm the president, conducts an annual port to port yacht rally from the islands in the Pacific to encourage boats to come into Bundaberg.

This year we had 85 entries and this boat was just one of the entries. There was nothing out of the ordinary.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: "Welcome to Bundaberg Port Marina," reads the sign where Geoff Beyer is the manager. He noticed nothing unusual about the Friday Freedom and its crew.

GEOFF BEYER: They were guests in the marina and you know we've accommodated them for a couple of weeks now. And I got a phone call Saturday morning just to ask me to come down and assist to relocate the boat into a secure location by the Customs and Federal Police.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Was there anything unusual that you noticed?

GEOFF BEYER: No not at all.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: And it's not unusual to have a boat with international sailors on it?

GEOFF BEYER: No well it was right at the time where we've got the Port 2 Port Fun Ocean Passage happening at the moment. So we've had over a hundred boats come through the marina in the last couple of weeks and it was one of those boats.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: What about the boat itself?

GEOFF BEYER: Well it's been seized. Eventually I assume it'll probably be sold off at auction somewhere.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The yacht's cargo of cocaine is set to be destroyed.

Generally most of the world's cocaine originates from Colombia, the cocaine capital of the world.

Dr Oliver Villar who lectures in politics at Charles Sturt University has studied the drug trade. He's the author of Cocaine, Death Squads and the War on Terror.

OLIVER VILLAR: It's a global phenomenon but cocaine specifically when we're referring to the Australian context comes via Europe, in particular Spain, which is a gateway to Europe.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Cocaine is also produced in Peru and Bolivia but Columbia is the dominant supplier.

MARK COLVIN: Brendan Trembath.
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