A yacht allegedly smuggling one tonne of methamphetamine with a street value of up to $750 million has been intercepted off the coast of Lake Macquarie.
The two crew members - a 33-year-old New Zealand man and a 34-year-old man holding dual UK/South African citizenship - were arrested on board.
It will be alleged that investigators found more than 1000 packages wrapped in plastic on board the vessel.
The alleged offenders were taken to Surry Hills Police Station and charged with importing a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs. The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment.
The arrests were made under "Operation Romani", a joint investigation involving the Australian Federal Police, NSW Police and Australian Border Force.
It was part of an ongoing operation with the UK's National Crime Agency and its office in Canberra, examining "British organised crime groups targeting Australia".
Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner Justine Gough said police remain alert for "attempts to infiltrate transnational borders to bring illicit drugs to Australian markets" during the coronavirus crisis.
"Organised crime groups will stop at nothing - not even a global pandemic - to try and flood our communities with drugs for greed and profit."
Last Thursday, New Caledonian authorities advised Australian officials about the arrival of "a vessel of interest" into Pacific waters.
Police alleged the vessel had been in waters near Norfolk Island before travelling to New Caledonia.
The crew allegedly declared to New Caledonian authorities they had travelled from Mexico.
From this, Australian investigators pinpointed a second vessel of interest - a yacht named La Fayette. Police allege this yacht was loaded with drugs "in waters around Norfolk Island".
Last Friday, the La Fayette was located by the Australian Border Force on the east coast of Australia, heading south. The vessel's movements were tracked, as the joint Australian investigative team prepared to conduct a raid on the water.
About 4.30am on Saturday, a police marine vessel intercepted the La Fayette about 50 nautical miles east of Lake Macquarie.
The yacht was towed to NSW Police Marine Area Command in Balmain.
NSW Police State Crime Commander, Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith, said significant resources had been used to "aggressively target and intercept the yacht before the drugs could make it to the streets of NSW".
"With every seizure we make, a syndicate is taken down. It's evident this criminal network has gone to extreme measures to traffic drugs into NSW," he said.
"In light of the restrictions and guidelines under the Public Health Act, we have taken numerous additional precautions in accordance with COVID-19 protocol and as a result the two offenders and all officers on the vessel were decontaminated and tested for the virus."
He added that, since the start of this year, the Organised Crime Squad had seized "hundreds of kilos of prohibited drugs and disrupted multiple criminal networks and their activities".
Australian Border Force Acting Regional Commander for NSW Garry Low said criminal syndicates should know that "not only will we find your drugs' concealments when they reach our sea ports and airports, but we're also watching your movements before you reach Australia".
"The ABF has eyes on our oceans, not just on our land borders."
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