AN ANGRY seal has effectively stopped an alleged Brit drug trafficker from escaping a tiny Australian island with one tonne of illicit drugs.
Cops found 40 bags of cocaine, ecstasy and meth stashed under seaweed, and arrested Graham Palmer, 34, and French sailor Antoine Dicenta, 51.
Palmer and Dicenta were caught after a yacht carrying an alleged £553million worth of drugs ran aground.
Western Australia Police Force said that they “seized about one tonne of illicit drugs from a small island off the Geraldton coast after receiving information from the public about an apparently stricken yacht and the unusual movements of its crew.”
They were told “that the 15m yacht named ‘Zero’ had drifted on to a reef near Stick Island, which is located in the Abrolhos Islands group about 60km west of Geraldton.
“The report sparked a sea search and an investigation which resulted in the arrest of two men on Burton Island.
“About 40 bags containing up to one tonne of suspected illicit drugs was located, with preliminary tests indicating the haul includes cocaine and ecstasy.”
The men were seen making a dash for cover in the bushes on Burton Island as search and rescue planes circled overhead.
Geraldton Volunteer Marine Rescue vice-commander Damien Healy told ABC radio: “When they got on the island, the guys made a run for their tender [drugs] and there was this big, huge seal asleep between them and the tender.
“They woke it up and it jumped up with its big chest out and bellowed at them.
“The guys basically had the choice of going through the seal or getting arrested – and they ended up choosing getting arrested.”
WA Police Force Commissioner Chris Dawson said: “The fishing community of Geraldton played a significant role in this detection and seizure and maintained regular contact with police as this matter unfolded.
“These people have helped protect Western Australia’s borders on this occasion and we are grateful for their efforts.”
He said the force has been in contact with the National Crime Agency and the Drug Enforcement Administration, “as both accused men are foreign nationals and the movements of the yacht are of interest to us.”
Both men have been charged with importation of a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs.
They appeared in the Geraldton Magistrate’s Court on September 5 and were remanded in custody to appear again on September 20.
Today, the WA police announced a further three people allegedly connected to the multi-million-pound drug haul had been nabbed.
The force said: “Police have arrested three more people as part of the investigation into the attempted importation of approximately one tonne of illicit drugs, which were located on Barton Island, in the Abrolhos Islands group about 60km west of Geraldton.
“The investigation has involved extensive liaison with international law enforcement partners.”
As a result, an American man, 45, another British man, 35, and a 50-year-old man from New South Wales in Australia were arrested in Perth.
All three have been charged with conspiring to possess a prohibited drug other than methylamphetamine with intent to sell or supply.
The men were refused bail and were due to appear in the Perth Magistrate’s Court today.
Assistant Commissioner Brad Royce said: “We are continuing to learn more about where those drugs came from and who was involved.
“The sheer size and nature of this seizure clearly indicates the involvement of an established criminal network.
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“Such criminal networks are not confined to geographic boundaries, and through our interjurisdiction arrangements our investigators and intelligence officers can track their movements and associates further than they ever have been able to before.
“There is still a lot more work to be done and our efforts will continue as we work our way towards the more senior members of the criminal network.”
In Australia, drug traffickers can be caged for life.