News Corp Australia

"Seniors" involved in $312m cocaine ring busted by AFP

THREE senior citizens were ­allegedly about to retrieve 1.4 tonnes of cocaine worth $312 million off our coast until authorities pulled off the biggest blow against the popular drug in Australia's history.

The Australian Federal Police said the drugs had been loaded onto a yacht called Elakha from a "mother ship" in the South Pacific before the yacht's crewmen - New Zealand national Hamish Thompson and joint Swiss-Fijian citizen Valentino Fries - set a course for Australian waters.

It is there police will ­allege Glen Willcox, 62, from Randwick, and Kevin Geraghty, 63, from Clovelly, would transfer the load onto a smaller vessel and take it to shore.

A suspect is led away by Australian Federal Police officers after the record haul was intercepted. News Corp Australia

The Australian Federal Police said the drugs had been loaded onto a yacht called Elakha.

The pair had driven to Sanctuary Point on the south coast where it will be alleged 66-year-old David Wren, from St Georges Basin, would help pick up the load.

All five are now facing life in prison after the Australian Navy's HMAS Bathurst intercepted the Elakha just before midnight on Thursday. A sixth man Yahay Magdalawi, 32, was arrested in Sydney's inner west in connection with the bust.

They have all been charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug and denied bail to reappear in Central Court tomorrow.

There was enough ­cocaine on the Elakha for 1.4 million "hits" for Australian users, who prop up one of the world's most lucrative drug markets, NSW Justice Minister Michael Keenan said. "A kilogram of cocaine in the US would be worth $26,000, here it can sell for up to $240,000," Mr Keenan said.

"So you can see why this acts as a honey pot effect for organised criminals from all around the world."

He labelled the bust a "historic day in Australian law enforcement".

AFP Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan said Operation Armour started in August 2014 with a tip-off from New Zealand authorities and the hunt for the record shipment began.

Since then the navy, New Zealand Customs, organised crime agencies and a Fijian crime unit have all been involved.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Gaughan would not comment on the whereabouts of the "mother ship" as investigations continued but said the drugs themselves originated in South America.

The Elakha was owned by one of the arrested men and based in the harbourside city of Tauranga on New Zealand's north island.