Drug Bust at Port Bundaberg
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.
Rain and Lightning
We made it to Lightning Ridge after nearly 8 hours of hard driving. We now fully understand how unpopulated the country truly is. We will post photos after dinner.
We also found Toby! We met Toby in Fiji at the First Landing Bar. Toby is an Old-Timer Opal miner from Lightning Ridge. We told him we would be visiting and we wanted to know how to find him and he said just ask for Toby...everybody knows him...and he was right. The first person we asked knew him and where to find him. We can't wait to see the old bugger!
Hunter Valley Wine Country
Hot and Dry
We moved up the coast to Hunter's Valley which is the Gold Coast wine country just outside New Castle and 150 km North of Sydney. It is hot, arid and windy today. There are well over 100 vineyards in the area and they are mostly boutique family owned operations with the oldest vines in all of Australia according to the literature and map of the area.
We are actually camping right in the middle of the vineyard.
The campground we are staying in is quite wonderful with two pools and Jacuzzi and lots of shade trees. In the shade trees we have dozens of wild pink and grey Cockatoos called Galahs. These guys are noisy and they seem to not like the fact that we set-up our tent under their tree. It is completely amazing how many wild parrots there are in Australia...and exotic parrots at that. The Cockatoos are everywhere and seem to outnumber the ducks. We have seen the ducks and cockatoos fighting over food on several occasions and find that the ducks typically win. However the fights between Cockatoos and Magpies go the other way.
Sunny and Warm
We spent the day visiting our cruising buddies on S/V Totem and walking down town Sydney. We were glad to see that the Totem clan is doing well living aboard in the Sydney area and what a beautiful location they have found. Anybody who has lived on a boat would be envious. The stairs to the street from their marina will surely keep you fit.
After visiting Behan and Jamie, we made our way towards the down town area of Sydney to get a retake of the brief view that we had coming across the Sydney Harbor Bridge via the Greyhound Bus. After getting lost on traffic and taking the tunnel under the harbor, we circled back and came across the bridge in the opposite direction. Once we found some reasonably priced parking near Luna Park, we walked across towards the Opera House and the Rocks. We wanted to do the Sydney Harbor Bridge Arch walk which takes you up the topside of the arch...BUT when we saw the $212/pp price just to walk for an hour 200 feet above where you walk for free, we decided otherwise. Some things are just stupidly priced for tourists and this was one of them...and yet there were dozens of people paying the ridiculous price.
Sydney was as beautiful in person as it is in the pictures. The vibrant water front really puts San Francisco to shame.