An international drug-smuggling ring has been blown wide open after two members of the gang surrendered to police in Western Australia – after being confronted by an angry seal.
The drama unfolded after a yacht ran aground and was abandoned on tiny Stick Island, some 7km from Burton Island in the Abrolhos archipelago, which lies off Western Australia near the port town of Geraldton. The authorities started a search after it was found, as a dinghy was missing, and initially there were concerns the occupants might be in difficulty.
However, as airplanes combed the area, a crayfisherman saw someone on Burton Island ducking down in a bid to hide in low scrubland as the aircraft flew overhead, according to Geraldton volunteer marine rescue service vice-commander Damien Healy.
This raised suspicions, and police subsequently raided the island. The pair, Frenchman Antoine Dicenta and Briton Graham Palmer, hastily tried to hide more than a ton of methylamphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy – worth more than AUS$1 billion – in dozens of bags under seaweed. They then made a run for their inflatable dinghy, but were stopped in their tracks when they encountered a large seal, which was not happy about being woken up, reared up, puffed out its chest and bellowed at them.
Mr Healy said: “The guys basically had the choice of going through the seal or getting arrested, and they ended up choosing getting arrested.”
Police Commissioner Chris Dawson confirmed that three more men – American Jason Lassiter, Briton Scott Felix Jones, and Australian Angus Bruce Jackson – have also been arrested in relation to the drugs ring. They were allegedly the ‘shore party’ ready to receive the haul of drugs.
He said: “We have disrupted a big international drug syndicate here”, before adding: “And just a little bit of advice – if you are in a hot pink shirt, don’t try and hide in low scrub.”
It is not known what species of seal thwarted the gang members’ escape. Only the Australian sea lion and the Australian and New Zealand fur seal can be found on the mainland and in Tasmanian waters.
Photo credit: WA Police