The intriguing case of a snoozing captain, angry seal, and drug smuggler off the coast of South Australia

The intriguing case of a snoozing captain, angry seal, and drug smuggler off the coast of South Australia

The high seas along the South African coast hold secrets about global drug trafficking. Police often intercept illegal drug shipments on land, especially in the country’s ports, which is an indication of what is happening on the ocean waves.

A recent court ruling in Australia, involving a criminal gang that included a French captain and smugglers from the UK and the US, showed how drug traffickers used a yacht to transport cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine (TEC) that they picked up from a ship. along the coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

The Daily Maverick previously reported how International drug traffickers use Durban port in their operations.

Mother Ships Yachting

In March this year, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released its dossier Global report on cocaine 2023That taught south africa and said Drug dealers prefer to use sea routes To pump cocaine into this country.

The report added that smuggling groups had gained access to “an increasing number of vessels”, including yachts.

“To avoid law enforcement at seaports, smugglers often unload cocaine from the mother ship before they reach land,” she added.

“Ship-to-ship transfers at rendezvous points are made using small and medium-sized vessels such as speed boats and fishing boats.”

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Ships intercepted in South Africa during anti-drug campaigns – In June 2021, cocaine worth R400 million was discovered hidden in a ski boat towed by a bakkie in Pretoria.

In South Africa’s largest drug bust, in 2010, cocaine worth about R2 billion at the time was discovered on a fishing trawler, the Toledo, in Knysna, on the coast of the Western Cape. allegedly A passing ship had earlier loaded cocaine on Toledo.

Madagascar to Richards Bay

In the Australian case dating back to South Africa, the yacht was named zero The key was in the traffic.

The case involves France’s, Antoine Decenta, who recently failed to file a motion to change his previous guilty plea and have his conviction related to drug importation charges overturned. Dicenta was sentenced to 26 years in prison.

In this case, cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamine are said to be worth up to 184 million Australian dollars (approximately R2.3 billion), seized.

South Africa featured in the judgment against Dicenta, which was handed down by the Supreme Court of Western Australia in April this year and made available to the public online in May.

According to the ruling, on July 20, 2019, Dicenta was over zero. Also on board was Graham Palmer, from the United Kingdom, who was later sentenced to 22 years in prison for his involvement.

“The Zero sailed from Madagascar to Richards Bay on the east coast of South Africa, arriving on 27 July 2019,” the ruling read.

He met another boat and loads of cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy [ecstasy] They were taken from the boat to the yacht. There was evidence that a second boat may have been in the vicinity at the time the drugs were transported.”

It was not clear to what extent the transfer occurred abroad.

Incidental incriminating evidence

A mobile phone partially recorded the transportation of medicines. was recording It is said that it was done by accident by one of the two men on the yacht.

The recording captured Mr. Palmer saying, after the drugs were taken on the plane, “Fuck a ton over there,” and Dicenta responding “Oh, sure, it’s a ton more.”

According to the ruling, Zero left Richards Bay and traveled to the west coast of Australia, eventually reaching the northernmost island group, the Abrolhos Islands, on August 29, 2019. It then turned south, reaching the Pelsaert island group. .

“The yacht circumnavigated that group until it ran aground on a coral reef near Stake Island on September 2, 2019,” the ruling said.

“Mr Dicenta told the police after his arrest that he fell asleep at the wheel of the yacht.”

After the Zero ran aground, Dicenta and Palmer jumped ship and made their way to Burton Island, arriving there on the afternoon of September 2, 2019.

They hid drugs on the island.

“Mr Dicenta and Mr Palmer remained on Burton Island but were spotted on 3 September 2019 by the crew of a passing vessel,” the ruling said. “The police have been alerted.”

Their fate has been decided

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the duo tried to escape from the police officers who landed on the island, but were intercepted by the seal.

Damien Healy, deputy commander of the local volunteer marine rescue service, was quoted as saying: “They woke her up and jumped up with her big breasts and yelled at them.

“The men had the choice of going through the seal or being arrested and ended up choosing to be arrested.”

Their drug stash is found and seized.

According to the verdict against Dicenta, had he and Palmer not been caught, the drugs would have been transferred from Zero to a speedboat out at sea.

From there, the cargo was to be taken to the port of Donggara on the west coast of Australia.

Loose ends in SA

At the time, Superintendent Detective Kate Ferry, national coordinator of the Australian Federal Police’s Criminal Asset Forfeiture Task Force, said: “Our message to organized crime groups in Australia and beyond is clear – [police] and its associates will continue to target and investigate your illegal operations, while prosecuting you with the full force of the law.”

Five men were jailed in the Zero Yacht drug case.

The judgment against Dicenta did not include any details about who in South Africa might have been involved in getting the drugs to him and Palmer.

Daily Maverick I have already reported Drug channels between South Africa and Australia.

It was reported that Australian gangs had taken advantage of those in South Africa, using local drug networks to sell illegal substances.

Points in this country were also used to ensure shipments were delivered to Australia. DM

This article first appeared in The Daily Maverick Weekly DM168, available nationwide for R29.


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