U.S. and Australian authorities have released details of a joint operation that resulted in the seizure of a 2.4 tonne shipment of cocaine and the arrest of its Western Australian buyers.
In November, U.S. forces intercepted the drug shipment off the coast of South America. The cargo was headed for Australia, so they notified Australian authorities of the smuggling attempt. The cargo’s owners did not appear to be aware that U.S. authorities had taken their drugs, creating an opportunity to set up a sting at the receiving end.
To catch the cocaine importers at the Australian end, the Western Australia Police put together a fake cargo of “cocaine” made of plaster-of-paris. They dropped this consignment over the side at a position about 50 nm off the coast, then waited to see who would come pick it up.
On December 30, the retrieval crew allegedly used two motor boats, the Catalina and Cool Runnings, to transit to the dropoff area and hunt for the floating parcels. They located and retrieved heavy bundles of fake cocaine while WA Police units watched them on drone video feeds. When they neared shore, police swooped in and made the arrest.