Australia: The largest cocaine seizure in Australian history and the 'geriatrics and ex-crims' behind it - - PressFrom - Australia
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Australia The largest cocaine seizure in Australian history and the 'geriatrics and ex-crims' behind it

22:10  20 october  2019
22:10  20 october  2019 Source:   smh.com.au

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Australian police dismantled a major cocaine smuggling ring after a two-and-a-half-year multi-agency operation undertaken with Tahiti, Australian "The size of that seizure collectively — 1.1 tonnes [2,425 pounds] — makes it the largest cocaine seizure in Australian law-enforcement history

a group of people in uniform: The operation was led by the AFP and led to the interception of a cocaine shipment off the NSW South Coast in February 2017.© AFP The operation was led by the AFP and led to the interception of a cocaine shipment off the NSW South Coast in February 2017.

It is the largest cocaine seizure in Australian history.

More than 1.4 tonnes of the illicit drug concealed on the Elakha, a 13.3-metre yacht that was intercepted about 370 kilometres off the NSW South Coast in February 2017.

The drugs were worth close to half a billion dollars.

In June four men were found guilty of conspiracy to import the record amount of cocaine, one as the yachtsman steering the vessel, the other three from the supposed "shore party".

Among that party were Kevin Michael Geraghty, then aged 63, and Glen James Willcox, 62, who Australian Federal Police say planned to travel in the Fredd S motorboat from St Georges Basin to meet the Elakha at sea, load it with fresh petrol and bring the cocaine back to dry land.

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That seizure came after 606 kg of the drug were intercepted by the French navy off Tahiti in March this year and after 32 kg of heroin was seized in Fiji in December 2014. “The size of that seizure collectively — 1.1 tonnes [2,425 pounds] — makes it the largest cocaine seizure in Australian

“This is a significant seizure , in fact it is the largest cocaine seizure at the Port of New York/Newark since May 1994,” said Troy Miller, director of Customs and Border Protection’s New York Field Operations. After agents boarded the ship, they inspected several containers and noticed the sealing

Some of the cocaine allegedly seized during the operation in 2017.© AFP Some of the cocaine allegedly seized during the operation in 2017.

Police believe the Elakha had been loaded with the drugs by a "mother ship" that it met in the South Pacific Ocean in January.

On Friday the NSW District Court heard defence submissions on behalf of Geraghty and Willcox, both in custody, ahead of their sentencing over the importation in the new year.

New Zealand national Hamish Thompson and Sydney man John Majdalawi were also found guilty of conspiracy to import the 1.4 tonnes of cocaine in June.

All four men will be sentenced in 2020.

Their arrest in 2017 was the culmination of a joint investigation by the AFP and the Australian Border Force, following a tip-off from New Zealand authorities, who had been watching the Elakha for more than four years.

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“The size of that seizure collectively makes it the largest cocaine seizure in Australian law enforcement history ,” he added, assuring that The members of the gang are alleged to be behind five counts of conspiracy to transfer drugs to Australia in total, including when police seized 32kg of

"The size of that seizure collectively makes it the largest cocaine seizure in Australian law enforcement history In early December, police and border officials began monitoring a vessel that was travelling between Sydney's popular fish markets and the central coast of New South Wales.

a man standing on a sidewalk: The seizure was the largest in Australian history.© AFP The seizure was the largest in Australian history.

On Friday the court heard the crown prosecution had previously argued that Geraghty was an "organiser and facilitator" throughout the years-long conspiracy, which finally eventuated in 2017 after two failed attempts.

a boat is docked next to a body of water: Police believe the Elakha had been loaded with the drugs by a © AFP Police believe the Elakha had been loaded with the drugs by a "mother ship" that it met in the South Pacific Ocean.

Defence barrister Philip Young, SC, said while the crown had suggested Geraghty assisted with "access to overseas contacts," his contact with the Elkaha and those upon it was in fact "virtually non-existent" towards the end of the conspiracy.

"A few phone calls that were made very early in the piece ... were productive ... [but] he did not have a continuous role as a procurer that the crown can demonstrate," he said.

"Your honour needs to be cautious with just how active Mr Geraghty was in that [end] period," Mr Young told Judge Peter Zahra.

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Mr Young said Geraghty, now nearing his 70s, was "broken" with "no great motivation to go on," calling on the court to take his age and health into account and to consider home imprisonment for life.

But crown prosecutor Sean Flood said telephone intercepts show that Geraghty was "fully aware of where the drugs were going to be sourced from" and played a significant role throughout.

He cited one conversation in April 2016 in which Geraghty spoke to Thompson "in the context of" the New Zealander returning to Australia with notes detailing the coordinates for "how the ships would meet at sea". Those notes were subsequently seized by the ABF.

The court also heard Geraghty plead guilty to contempt of court via audio-visual link, for "repeatedly and wilfully refusing to answer" questions during cross-examination this year.

During questioning it was put to him that the purpose of venturing out in the Fredd S was to obtain drugs.

However, Geraghty denied this and said the purpose was to meet commercial ships to collect tuna that he planned to sell in restaurants in Sydney's Chinatown, but refused to state the names of the restaurants.

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It was the largest cocaine seizure in Davie County history , according to a Davie County Sheriff’s Office press release. Gonzalo was jailed in Davie County under a million secured bond with more charges expected. Deputies said he owned the home that was searched.

“This seizure will definitely have a significant impact within the drug trade in Edmonton,” said Staff Sgt. Carlos Cardoso with the Edmonton Police Service. “In my experience with the EDGE unit, cocaine is definitely the drug of choice, we know that GHB is coming on our radar quite often,” he adds

On Friday sentencing submissions were also heard in the same court for Willcox, who was supported by his nephew.

Willcox was present in court, where his defence barrister Michael Pickin said "criminalities" were at the lower end, compared to his co-accused.

"He is not someone who comes from the organised crime milieu, not a gangster, rather someone who has worked as an electrician since 1975," he said.

"It seems his involvement in this lay in his adulation, his fondness for Mr Geraghty."

The court heard Willcox had acted as assistant to Geraghty, fulfilling his role by liaising with others, sending money to fund the operations and working on the Fredd S boat.

By contrast, he said Geraghty was "a pensioner who really doesn't have any money and works as a removalist."

Mr Pickin said it was not a sophisticated enterprise, that could almost be described as "an ad hoc group of geriatrics and ex-crims".

Judge Zahra is yet to hear final sentencing submissions on all four men and will reserve sentencing judgement until next year.

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