Video: Australian Police Set New Record With Cocaine Bust at Sea

coralynne drug bust new south wales police
Bodycam still from the boarding off Newcastle, August 15 (NSW Police / ABF)

Published Aug 19, 2020 8:48 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Australian Border Force and New South Wales Police set a new record on Saturday when they intercepted a fishing boat carrying 1,900 bricks of cocaine - an amount worth up to $600 million. It is the largest cocaine seizure landed in Australia to date, according to the ABF. 

Australian authorities began monitoring the case on August 11 when they received intelligence about a suspicious foreign fishing vessel headed for Australia's waters. With the support of other agencies, ABF monitored the suspect vessel and an Australian commercial fishing boat, the Coralynne, as they rendezvoused off New South Wales. ABF contends that Coralynne's crew took aboard narcotics in a ship to ship transfer with the foreign vessel, intending to smuggle the goods into Australia.

On Saturday, the New South Wales Police Force vessel Nemesis intercepted the Coralynne off Newcastle. In rough conditions, the Nemesis' small boat team conducted a daring boarding over the boat's starboard quarter and arrested the three crewmembers. The officers found large quantities of a controlled substance on board, which tested positive for cocaine. The Coralynne was towed to Balmain on Sunday evening, where forensic officers began a thorough investigation of the vessel and its cargo. 

The Coralynne's crewmembers - identified as Australians Christopher Preca, 27, Jackson Ross Giles-Adams, 32, and Chinese national Man Wah Chan, 41 - have been charged with attempting to import controlled drugs and failure or refusal to disclose their identity. They are being held without bail, and they face the possibility of life in prison if they are convicted. 

"The efforts of officers . . . to tackle 3.5 meter swells to ensure this illicit cargo didn’t reach our shores and those we alleged are responsible were put before the courts should be commended," said NSW Police's Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith in a statement. "Organized criminal syndicates should see this weekend’s arrests as a warning."

On Monday, Australian police carried out search warrants at Preca and Giles-Adams' residences in the suburbs of Sydney. Officials are looking into whether the men were operating as part of a larger organized crime group.