Two men were halted from escaping a small island in Australia with one ton of illicit drugs after a massive and upset seal wedged their way between them and escaping.
The Western Australia Police confirmed they had arrested 34-year-old British national Graham Palmer along with 51-year-old Frenchman Antoine Dicenta after finding them with 40 bags of cocaine, ecstasy as well as meth – thought to be worth around £553 million (or $688.14) – stashed under seaweed.
The force had received information about an “apparently stricken yacht and the unusual movements of its crew” in the Abrolhos Islands thanks to the public.
Chris Dawson, WA Police Force Commissioner said:
“The fishing community of Geraldton played a significant role in this detection and seizure and maintained regular contact with police as this matter unfolded.”
“These people have helped protect Western Australia’s borders on this occasion and we are grateful for their efforts.”
Both Palmer and Dicenta attempted to flee when they heard planes overhead, and accidentally ran into a “huge seal.”
Damien Healy, Geraldton Volunteer Marine Rescue vice-commander, shared with ABC radio:
“When they got on the island, the guys made a run for their tender and there was this big, huge seal asleep between them and the tender. They woke it up and it jumped up with its big chest out and bellowed at them. The guys basically had the choice of going through the seal or getting arrested – and they ended up choosing getting arrested.”
Both of the men were charged with importation of a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, appearing in Geraldton Magistrate’s Court on 5 September as well as being remanded in custody before their next hearing.
Western Australia Police announced that three more men had been arrested in relation to the incident in an update on 12 September.
The force revealed:
“Police have arrested three more people as part of the investigation into the attempted importation of approximately one tonne of illicit drugs, which were located on Barton Island, in the Abrolhos Islands group about 60km west of Geraldton. The investigation has involved extensive liaison with international law enforcement partners.”
State Crime Command Assistant Commissioner, Brad Royce, said authorities are continuing to discover who has been involved as well as where the drugs originated form.
“The sheer size and nature of this seizure clearly indicates the involvement of an established criminal network,” Royce said.
“The arrests yesterday represent a significant development in the investigation. There is still a lot more work to be done and our efforts will continue as we work our way towards the more senior members of the criminal network.”