An alleged drug smuggler thought he and a world champion kayaker’s seasick younger brother were going to be robbed by pirates after an alleged cocaine pickup worth up to $200 million, a court has heard.
Instead, the vessel behind the rigid-hulled inflatable boat driven by Anthony Draper was a navy patrol vessel.
Draper testified in the Brisbane Supreme Court trial of Olympic silver medallist Nathan Jon Baggaley, 45, and 39-year-old Dru Anthony Baggaley on Wednesday.
The brothers are accused of being involved in a plan to get 650kg of cocaine – valued at between $100 million and $200 million – from a foreign vessel hundreds of kilometres off the NSW coast.
Nathan Jon Baggaley, 45, and 39-year-old Dru Anthony Baggaley are seen on the vessel with navy personnel as they are arrested for alleged drug smuggling
Dru Baggaley, 39, is accused of being involved in a plan to get 650kg of cocaine – valued at between $100 million and $200 million – from a foreign vessel hundreds of kilometres off the NSW coast
Draper, 56, told the court he flew from Sydney to Coolangatta at Dru Baggaley’s request on July 30, 2018.
The pair got onto the RHIB at Brunswick Heads, with Draper thinking they were going a couple of kilometres offshore to pick up ‘smoko’ which he thought was marijuana, the court was told.
Dru Baggaley was seasick while they sailed out to sea overnight, Draper said.
In the morning they met up with a ‘big red boat’ on which Draper saw ‘South American people’, some holding guns.
He and Dru Baggley loaded a ‘substantial’ number of black packages, thrown from the larger vessel, onto the RHIB, he told the court on Wednesday.
While Draper yelled ‘no more pot’ because there might be ‘too much’ for the small boat, the foreign men referred to ‘cacao’.
Asked about the contents of the heavy packages, Dru Baggaley said, ‘Don’t worry about it, just keep loading it in the boat,’ Draper told the court.
While returning to the mainland the pair saw a plane, then a boat. At first Dru Baggaley told him to ‘just keep going’, but when the navy patrol boat was right behind them they threw packages into the sea.
‘I was s**ting myself … At first I thought we were going to get robbed, I thought they were pirates,’ Draper said.
Black bags filled with almost 650kg of cocaine worth a whopping $200million was seized
The view from the navy boat as it gained on Anthony Draper and Dru Baggley
Dru Baggaley seen on the small vessel as the navy gains on him
The court heard Draper was testifying as part of an undertaking made when he received a reduced sentence during earlier court proceedings.
Under cross-examination, Draper denied he recruited Dru Baggaley, asking for help to get a boat to import tobacco into Australia.
But he admitted writing letters to Dru Baggaley while both men were in jail saying, ‘I’m sorry I tricked you.’
‘You also wrote (to Dru Baggaley), ‘I want to fix this up and tell the cops the truth, you thought it was tobacco’,’ Dru Baggaley’s barrister Mark McCarthy said.
Draper said he wrote a ‘couple of letters’ for Dru Baggaley and also wrote to his parents.
‘I wrote the letter just for his mother and his father so they wouldn’t feel so bad,’ he added.
He also wrote he wasn’t handling jail, ‘have to get out by any means possible’ and told Dru Baggaley to ‘hang in there’ because the truth would come out for him in the end, the court was told.
Olympic silver medallist and world champion kayaker Nathan Jon Baggaley is also accused of being in on the scheme
Inside the bag were packets of cocaine with the Superman logo imprinted on them
The prosecution alleges Nathan Baggaley also had a ‘key role’ in the importation, saying he bought the RHIB for $100,000, got it ready and covered its registration number in heavy duty black tape before the trip out to sea.
A total of 587kg of cocaine was recovered by the navy, but bundles continued to be recovered on the coast months after the alleged smuggling attempt, prosecutor Ben Power said.
A central focus of the trial will be whether the jury accepts ‘anything at all’ they are told by Draper, Mr McCarthy said earlier.
Nathan Baggaley’s barrister Anthony Kimmins told the court the prosecution’s case against his client was based on circumstantial evidence that did not prove he was involved in the alleged attempted importation of the cocaine.
The men both pleaded not guilty to a single count of attempting to import a commercial quantity of the border-controlled drug cocaine into Queensland at Coolangatta on the Gold Coast between December 2017 and August 2018.
The jury trial continues before Justice Ann Lyons.