Police are searching for three men rescued off the coast of Western Australia after a huge stash of cocaine washed ashore a week later.
The Australian Federal Police allege Karl Whitburn, 45, Aristides Avlontis, 36, and Mate Stipinovich, 49, were rescued from the ocean near Albany on February 1, telling authorities they’d capsized while fishing.
The AFP allege the three men could assist with a drug trafficking investigation after police allegedly found about 365kg of cocaine off the coast of Western Australia.
Police allegedly found about 365kg of cocaine off the coast of Western Australia..
But six days later, police allege a black plastic-wrapped package containing multiple smaller packages of cocaine washed ashore near Denmark.
Then on February 8, a seven-metre boat was found overturned off Peaceful Bay, about 45km west of Denmark.
When police retrieved and searched the cabin cruiser they allegedly found another eight similar plastic-wrapped packages, each containing about 40kg of cocaine.
It’s estimated the drugs had a street value of $235m.
Police are searching for Mate Stipinovich, 49, and his two friends who they believe may be able to assist with investigations.Northern Territory man Aristides Avlontis, 36, is wanted by the AFP.WA man Karl Whitburn, 45, was allegedly rescued by police from the ocean.
Police believe the drugs were collected from the ocean and loaded onboard the seven-metre boat.
An investigation into how and where the drugs were dropped in the water has been launched.
“We are also appealing for anyone else to call us if they have information to help us find the men, or know anything about this drug importation,” AFP acting Commander Graeme Marshall said.
The drugs are estimated to be worth more than $235m.
“The interception of this amount of drugs would be a significant blow to a well-resourced syndicate and prevents millions of dollars of drug profit from flowing back into the group to fund their next criminal venture or lavish lifestyles.
“The AFP estimates this seizure has saved the community more than $235m in drug-related harm, including associated crime, healthcare and loss of productivity.
“Organised crime syndicates employ a variety of methods to try to smuggle large amounts of drugs into Australia without detection.
“We believe this amount of cocaine would have been distributed across Australia and not just in WA.”
Police believe the drugs were collected from the ocean and loaded on-board the seven-metre boat.
Australian Border Force Superintendent Shaun Senior said officers continuously monitored a range of vessel types operating in and around shipping lanes, ports and harbours across the nation, to proactively identify suspicious activity.
“We understand that the Australian border is one of our most critical national assets, and along with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to make the border a hostile environment for criminals trying to import illicit drugs,” Superintendent Senior said.
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