THE presence of 700 kilograms of cocaine on board a catamaran sailed from Tahiti to Toronto was a closely guarded secret between two members of a drug syndicate, who purposely did not tell Newcastle sailor Craig Lembke about the illicit cargo, a jury has been told.
An example of the secrecy that surrounded the drugs on board the 13-metre Skarabej was picked up on a listening device placed in one of the syndicate member's cars when the two men waited for Mr Lembke to get out before they began discussing how to extricate the cocaine.
Whether or not Mr Lembke knew about the drugs on board is the key issue during his trial in Newcastle District Court, as is the question of when he knew he was to be paid $500,000 for sailing the Skarabej from Tahiti to Australia.
The jury also heard on Thursday that on the day they were arrested, Mr Lembke and one of the drug syndicate members were headed back to the catamaran on Lake Macquarie when the syndicate member told Mr Lembke about the work he planned to do on the yacht.
He was going to cut holes in the boat, the syndicate member told Mr Lembke, but he did not mention the reason for the work or the illicit cargo on board.
Mr Lembke's job was to ferry the syndicate member out to the Skarabej in a tender and he asked the syndicate member if later that afternoon anyone was picking him up from the boat and returning him to shore.
In response, the syndicate member said something that Public Defender Peter Krisenthal, for Mr Lembke, honed in on.
"They're coming out late in the afternoon just before dark," the syndicate member agreed he told Mr Lembke.
"And we will put it all in the boat and the boat will disappear for a couple of days".
Mr Krisenthal repeated the passage and the syndicate member confirmed he had said it.
"We will put it in the boat," Mr Krisenthal said, accentuating the word "in".
"Not take it out of the boat?
"At no stage did you say, "we will put it, whatever "it" is, put it in the tender?"
"At no stage did you say, "we will put it in the rubber ducky?"
"You said "we will put it in the boat and the boat will disappear for a few days"."
The syndicate member repeatedly agreed that was what he would have said.
The trial, before Judge Jonathon Priestley, continues.