An Australian Olympic kayaker and his brother have been found guilty of attempting to smuggle over US$150 million of cocaine into the country.
In 2018, Nathan and Dru Baggaley had dreams of making it rich through a simple smuggling run, but Dru and another man ended up clapped in irons after a dramatic chase at sea in which they were pursued by the navy, air force, and police.
Nathan had purchased a seagoing boat in which Dru and the other man, Anthony Draper, made an 11-hour journey to secretly rendezvous with a foreign ship loaded with drugs.
However, after they transferred the packages of cocaine to their boat, they were spotted by surveillance planes and followed by a navy ship.
Footage captured Dru throwing packages of cocaine overboard while Draper attempted to outrun the naval vessel, ABC News reports.
They were finally captured by a police vessel off the Queensland coast and arrested by armed officers.
In court, Dru claimed that he had thought he was collecting tobacco and not cocaine. He also said he was kidnapped by Draper and made to go with him to meet the smugglers’ ship. He said Draper threatened to harm his family if he didn’t help him.
However, Draper claimed he was recruited by Dru to drive the boat and alleged he was told they were picking up “smoko” which he assumed was marijuana. He pleaded guilty to importing cocaine earlier this year but his sentence was reduced for testifying against the Baggaley brothers.
Prosecutors say Nathan – a double silver-medallist at the Athens Olympics – was involved in the plan by purchasing the boat and fitting it with a satellite phone and a navigation system.
However, in court he claimed that the boat was purchased with money given to him by Dru and said he was told it would be used to start a whale watching business. But his fingerprints were discovered on masking tape used to conceal the boat’s registration number.
The misadventure wasn’t the first time the brothers have been charged with drug offences.
They were previously convicted of involvement in a drug gang making hallucinogenic tablets. They were also convicted in 2009 on other drug charges.
They will be sentenced later this month. According to ABC News, they could both face life in prison.