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Alleged cocaine syndicate to reface court

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 6/02/2017

Six men allegedly caught trying to smuggle 1.4 tonnes of cocaine into NSW are due in court again after appearing over the weekend.

The men, aged between 32 and 66, face the prospect of life imprisonment over what police say is the biggest cocaine seizure in Australia's history.

Two of the men, New Zealander Hamish Thompson, 63, and Swiss-Fijian Valentino Fries, 54, were arrested on board a yacht allegedly carrying cocaine destined for NSW on its way to a "mother ship" waiting in the south Pacific Ocean on Thursday night.

Four other members of the alleged syndicate - David Wren, 66, Kevin Michael Geraghty, 63, Glen James Willcox, 62, and Yahay Magdalawi, 32, were arrested in Sydney and appeared in court on Friday and Saturday.

Thompson and Fries faced court on Monday.

New Zealand authorities first tipped off their Australian counterparts about the 12-metre yacht Elakha in August 2014, after gathering intelligence about its owner and crew.

The yacht was intercepted by the Australian HMS Bathurst 370km east of Sydney on Thursday night, with the enormous stash of drugs worth an estimated $312 million discovered on board.

All six were charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.

They were all refused bail over the weekend and are due to reappear at Central Local Court on Wednesday.

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