Olympic star caught up in plot to ditch $18m worth of coke
UNSUSPECTING campers and families have stumbled upon millions of dollars worth of high-grade cocaine washed up on Queensland and NSW beaches after the parcels were dumped at sea in botched drug smuggling operation involving a star Olympian, police allege.
The Sunday Mail can reveal the astonishing allegations against Athens dual silver medal-winning kayaker Nathan Baggaley and his younger brother Dru, in a plot which reads like a Hollywood action movie and involved a high-seas rendezvous with gun-toting, masked South Americans on a drug ship and a desperate ocean bid to outrun the navy and Queensland Water Police.
The police claims against Dru and Nathan were revealed in documents obtained by The Sunday Mail from the Supreme Court in Brisbane, which last week released papers filed by prosecutors in Dru Baggaley's failed April 15 bid to be freed on bail.
The Olympian, who is accused of working for a massive international cocaine syndicate in helping to plan and execute the smuggling of $176m worth of cocaine into Australia in July 2018, allegedly boasted "for once I've finally gotten some good luck" in a WhatsApp message to a friend.
But the secret operation was being monitored by police, who swooped on Dru Baggaley and skipper Anthony Trevor Draper about 65 nautical miles east of Byron Bay as they tried desperately to race back to shore.
Hours before their arrest at gunpoint by Queensland police officers, Dru Baggaley allegedly threw 652kg of cocaine overboard.
The Sunday Mail can reveal nine packages - worth $18.5 million - were found washed up on beaches along a 1600km stretch of coastline from Curtis Island in Queensland to Port Kembla, south of Sydney, over seven months in 2018 and 2019. The rest was picked up by the navy.
Kayakers at South West Rocks in NSW found a package worth $7 million, $289,000 worth of drugs were found by two beach walkers at Bargara near Mon Repos, Queensland, and Fraser Island visitors dumped a $5.2 million parcel in a bin before telling rangers of their suspicious discovery.
A mum and son at Elliot Heads found a package just before Christmas in 2018, and opened it thinking it contained DVDs because it was emblazoned with a Superman logo. The "S" in a diamond shape was printed on the wrapping and stamped into the compressed cocaine powder, and it helped police scientists match the drugs found by the holiday-makers with the rest of the cocaine retrieved at sea by the navy on July 31.
Police say the cocaine found on beaches was also almost identical in concentration to the 76 per cent purity product found at sea, and both were prepared from Colombian coca leaf and processed in the same location.
Prosecutors in Dru Baggaley's bail application claim that the Coolangatta fishmonger - who named himself "Tiger Shark" on the encrypted Wickr app - was caught "red-handed" because police have video footage of him meeting up with the 55-metre red "mother" ship in international waters and being thrown the cocaine packages.
Eleven hours earlier, Dru left a Brunswick Heads boat ramp under the cover of darkness and motored eastwards through the night with his skipper Anthony Draper, 53, from the Sydney suburb of Balgowlah, police allege.
Upon reaching the coordinates programmed into his sat-nav, 100 nautical miles out, the pair met about 20 men, of South American or Colombian appearance wielding guns and wearing masks, who threw packages into the ocean, telling Draper they contained "cacao, meaning cocaine".
After a four-minute transfer, the ship left and Draper tried to confront Dru about the packages, believing they had been going to pick up marijuana. Dru told him "to shut up" and get back to collecting the packages from the water. Dru claims in his defence that he believed he was picking up tobacco.
It took them an hour to load their large inflatable boat, which police allege Nathan Baggaley bought for $106,700 from a Gold Coast boatyard two months earlier.
Nathan also stumped up the cash to fit the boat out with the latest in hi-tech communication equipment, including a satellite phone.
He even named the boat "Medellin" when he registered the satellite phone, police allege - the same name as the cocaine capital of Colombia - and allegedly used black tape to cover the vessel's registration numbers.
And the court documents show that police accuse Nathan or Dru, or a person known to them, of entering coordinates for a point in the Coral Sea - immediately east of the Gold Coast and close to the rendezvous point - into the boat's chart plotter three days before the voyage. Almost identical coordinates were entered into a fishing app on a mobile phone allegedly used by the brothers, police claim.
When Dru and Draper failed to arrive back at Brunswick Heads boat ramp as expected, police allege they spotted Nathan standing at a nearby vantage point with an "uninterrupted" view of the Brunswick River entrance and out to sea.
Hours later, after midnight, Nathan allegedly tried to call the boat's satellite phone on a mobile phone he falsely registered with the name "Graham Black".
Early the next morning, an anxious Nathan drove to the Brunswick Heads Caravan Park, travelling past Dru's Nissan Navarra and his empty boat trailer. Even though police suspected Nathan was involved in the plot from the outset, he was not arrested and charged as Dru's co-accused until almost a year after his brother.
Nathan is due to face a committal hearing in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday.
Dru Baggaley, who has flagged that he will represent himself at his trial, has taken his fight to be released on bail to the Court of Appeal.
The appeal is due back in court on June 1 and his trial is due to begin on June 29.
Originally published as Olympic star caught up in bungled plot to ditch $18m worth of coke