AFP charges third WA man over 300kg cocaine haul

The AFP has charged a third man wanted over the importation of more than 300 kilograms of cocaine into Western Australia, after he was found last night allegedly hiding under a home spa.

Police will allege the man, 49, had a loaded gun in a bag beside him when AFP specialist operations Tactical Response Team officers found him in a secret compartment under a spa on a back patio of a Byford property during a search.

The man is expected to appear in Perth Magistrates Court today (Thursday, 23 March, 2023) charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug. The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment.

AFP officers took the man into custody after a six-week manhunt, which began in early February after police retrieved an overturned boat from the ocean off WA's Great Southern region and allegedly found several packages of cocaine inside.

Police believe three men had been on board the seven-metre boat and collected the drugs from the ocean off Albany before the vessel capsized.

The boat was found partially submerged further west a week after three men were rescued from the ocean off Albany and told authorities they had been fishing when their cabin cruiser overturned and sank.

After the drugs were found, police began searching for the men and a Perth Magistrate then issued warrants for their arrest.

One of the men, 36, was arrested by Northern Territory Police Force officers later that month (15 February) after he was found at a home in rural Darwin.

AFP officers arrested a second man, 45, in Perth's north-eastern suburbs on 9 March, 2023.

All three men have been charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug.

One of the men charged allegedly owned the cabin cruiser, named Aces and Eights, where the drugs were found. Another bag of cocaine had washed ashore near Denmark the day before the boat was retrieved.

How and where the drugs were dropped in the ocean prior to their alleged collection by the crew of the Aces and Eights is still being investigated.

AFP Sergeant Kristen Swan said the AFP had been working tirelessly to track down the 49-year-old man and thanked the community for their assistance since the first packages of cocaine were found.

"Our investigation has not ended with the charging of these three men, we continue to work with our partners to track down anyone involved in this importation," she said.

"The seizure of more than 300kg of cocaine prevented millions of dollars of drug profit from flowing back into a transnational criminal syndicate to fund another illegal venture or lavish lifestyles.

"While law-abiding Australians are working hard to earn an honest day's wage, criminals involved in drug trafficking undermine our economy. Illicit drugs also fuel more crime, family violence, trauma on our roads and the risks of violence in our suburbs.

"The AFP's drug harm index estimates the seizure of this amount of cocaine has saved the community more than $190 million in drug-related harm, including associated crime, healthcare and loss of productivity."

Investigations are ongoing into anyone who helped the man avoid detection for six weeks.

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