Olympic kayaker in court over $200m coke smuggling plot
The jury in the trial of a former Olympic kayaker and a second man accused of trying to smuggle $200m worth of cocaine into Australia dropped overboard from a foreign ship have been shown video of a dramatic chase by the Navy as one man hurled the drugs overboard.
In his opening address in the Supreme Court in Brisbane today before Justice Ann Lyons, Prosecutor Ben Power said that the evidence would show that Dru Anthony Baggaley, 39, knew the packages of drugs contained cocaine and threw more than 600kg of the drugs into the sea as he ordered his skipper to try to outrun the patrol boat.
Mr Power said that two hours earlier Dru Baggaley, a fishmonger, had picked up the drug at dawn on July 31, 2018 from a spot on the high seas 360km offshore in a small rigid inflatable.
Mr Power showed the jury video footage covertly taken from a surveillance plane of Dru's boat meeting up with the foreign ship.
Dru is standing trial alongside Nathan John Baggaley, 45, a former Olympic kayaker, who prosecutors allege had a "key role" in aiding Dru's attempted cocaine importation by buying the powerful $106,700 boat, a $7000 navigation system and a satellite phone, and was waiting at Brunswick Heads boat ramp in northern NSW ready to receive the drugs on their return to shore.
Both men have this morning pleaded not guilty to attempting to import a commercial quantity of cocaine into Australia in Coolangatta and elsewhere between December 16, 2017 and August 2, 2018.
Mr Power said that Anthony Draper, the man driving the rigid inflatable, would give evidence next week that he initially believed they were picking up cannabis, but after he saw men who looked South American on the ship, and they told him "cacao, cacao" he confronted Dru about the packages: "What's going on they are saying it's cocaine".
But Dru told him "to just get it in the boat, you will get paid".
Hours later, after Dru hurled the cocaine packages overboard and ordered Draper to carry on driving the vessel despite the Navy's attempt to intercept them, Dru and Draper were arrested at sea, 65 nautical miles west of the coast, by Queensland Police as they tried desperately to race back to shore.
Mr Power said that Dru through the drugs overboard in a bid to slow down the Navy patrol boat chasing him "in the hope" that the Navy boat would abort their pursuit.
Justice Ann Lyons told the jury during their selection that both men "have a media profile, particularly on the Gold Coast, and Nathan Baggaley in sporting circles".
Mr Power told the jury that he was not alleging that the two Baggaley men standing trial were akin to a "Mr Asia" with the wealth to bankroll such a large importation of cocaine to be sold for up to $200m.
Nathan is alleged to have used the pseudonym "Thunderbutt" when he messaged Dru on the encrypted phone application Threema, when Dru was on his way back to the mainland after picking up the drugs.
"I'm on standby ready. Let me know what's," the message read.
Nathan is also alleged to have been seen driving past the Brunswick Heads marina where Dru's car was parked when Dru was due to arrive back with the drugs haul and also standing at a vantage point near the Brunswick Heads marina looking out to sea.
Mr Power also told the jury that evidence would show that three of Nathan's fingerprints were found on the underside of black gaffa tape used to hide the boat's registration numbers.
Nathan bought the boat from a Gold Coast boatyard two months earlier, according to agreed facts read to the court.
Millions of dollars worth of high-grade cocaine allegedly tossed overboard by Dru, and weighing 60kg in total, later washed up on Queensland and NSW beaches from Mon Repos, Qld, and Fraser Island to Port Kembla NSW, the jury was told.
The Navy picked up 587kg of cocaine thrown overboard by Dru on July 31, Mr Power told the jury.
The drugs were packaged in one kilogram blocks, some were stamped with a Bitcoin logo, others with a Superman logo or Dom Perignon champagne insignia.
Analysis showed the cocaine was prepared from Colombian coca leaf using a process usually used in Colombia, according to the agreed facts.
Dru Baggaley's defence counsel Mark McCarthy said the prosecution had the onus of proving Dru knew the drugs he threw overboard were cocaine and not tobacco.
Mr McCarthy said the key issue the jury would have to decide was whether to believe evidence to be given by boat skipper Mr Draper.
Nathan Baggaley's defence counsel Tony Kimmins said in his short opening address that there was "effectively no direct evidence of" Nathan's involvement in the alleged attempted importation, and the prosecution case relied on circumstantial evidence.
He said that Mr Power had not alleged that Nathan "ever got his feet wet" in the alleged cocaine importation.
Mr Kimmins said it was up to the prosecution to prove that Nathan did specific acts to assist Dru to try to import the cocaine.
Mr Kimmins said that Mr Power's description of the case "sounded like the script to a James Bond movie, a game of cat and mouse on the high seas".
He argued that the fact that Nathan's fingerprints were found on tape found on the boat did not prove that Nathan was helping Dru smuggle cocaine.
The trial continues. It is set to run for seven days.
Originally published as Olympic kayaker in court over $200m coke smuggling plot