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More than 200kg of cocaine seized from cargo ship in Port of Melbourne

More than 200 kilograms of cocaine hidden in the hull of a cargo ship has been seized in Melbourne. The cocaine — worth about $80 million — was found after Australian Border Force officers used an underwater remotely operated vehicle to search the vessel when it was docked in the Port of Melbourne last month.

It was hidden in a suspicious hull attachment in the ship’s sea chest, which contains pipes used to pump sea water.

Specialist divers from Victoria Police were called in to retrieve the illicit drug packages.

 

The ship with cocaine had sailed to Melbourne from Argentina via New Zealand and then continued on to Western Australia and South Australia.

The ship had sailed to Melbourne from Argentina via New Zealand and then continued on to Western Australia and South Australia.

AFP Commander Richard Chin said authorities were trying to identify those responsible for the attempted import.

“The focus of our ongoing investigation remains on identifying and locating the transnational serious organised crime groups responsible for this attempted import, and the people working for them in Australia to receive and distribute these drugs,” he said. 

“It could be something small from an unusual boat purchase paid in cash, through to suspicious activity at one of our ports.

“Every piece of information reported to law enforcement can help put together the picture to help us find those responsible.”

AFP says drugs like cocaine are commonly hidden below water

Australian Border Force Commander Clinton Sims said Australia was being targeted by organised crime groups moving illegal drugs through the border. 

“Despite international law enforcement agency operations, organised crime groups continue to import illegal drugs on board commercial vessels destined for Australia,” he said. 

“Our border is one of our most critical national assets and criminals should know that our efforts will continue to detect, disrupt and dismantle transnational organised crime groups who seek to test the integrity of Australia’s border.”

He said submersible remotely operated vehicles were used to enhance officers’ ability to conduct mass screening of shipping vessel hulls and void spaces to detect illegal drugs concealed below the water.

Commander Chin said attachments under the water had been regularly noticed by law enforcement over the past two decades.

“This concealment method is not new, and this seizure is another case of law enforcement remaining one step ahead of criminals attempting to bring harmful, illicit drugs into our country and into our community,” he said.

“We have prevented 200kg of cocaine from reaching our streets and in doing so, we have prevented approximately 1 million street deals and the significant harm to our society that flows as a result.”

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