Over Half A Tonne Of Cocaine Found On Yacht In Solomon Islands
The Australian Federal Police want to speak to the crew of a yacht which was discovered with about 500 kilograms of cocaine in the Solomon Islands in an international probe.
Two men have been charged in Sydney, including an alleged drug importation kingpin following a joint investigation involving Australian, Solomon Islands and US officials.
The operation ended on Thursday when the half-tonne of drugs - a magnitude not seen before by the South Pacific nation, was discovered inside the hull of a Belgian-registered, 44-foot yacht moored in Honiara.
Police believe the yacht's crew are no longer in the Solomon Islands.
The cache was concealed and stored inside a steering mechanism that flows through the Vieux Malin vessel.
The AFP allege the yacht travelled from South America and the syndicate was arranging another "handover" at sea before venturing to Sydney.
Simultaneous to Thursday's discovery, two Australian citizens were arrested over their alleged involvement in the planned importation and faced Sydney's Central Local Court on Friday.
Zhen Tao Qi, 41, has been charged with knowingly dealing in money or other property which is an instrument of crime valued at greater than $50,000, and conspiracy to import commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs, which carries a maximum penalty of life behind bars.
Zheng Zhao, 39, has also been charged and he, along with Qi, have been refused bail with their matters due back in court on November 28.
READ MORE: Kayakers Find Cocaine Floating Off Coast
It is the largest major organised crime probe undertaken by AFP with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.
AFP Detective Superintendent Ben McQuillan said they suspect Qi is a senior syndicate figure, if not the head.
"We're still yet to completely weigh the seizure and to analyse it but I think I'd be comfortable in saying probably a street value of between $200 to $300 million would be a reasonable estimate," Det Sup McQuillan said.
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