UK & World News

  • 16 November 2012, 17:38

Tonga Yacht: Cocaine And Body Found On Board

Police in the South Pacific are investigating how a yacht carrying a decomposed body and 78m worth of cocaine washed up on a deserted tropical island.

Australian detectives said international law agencies had been monitoring the 13m (42ft) vessel, called JeReVe, from when it left South America until they lost contact with it last month.

Two divers discovered the boat off Tonga's Vava'u island group and found a man's body when they went on board.

"Also located on board that vessel were 204, 1kg (2.2lb) blocks of cocaine destined for the Australian market," acting national manager for serious and organised crime David Sharpe told a news conference.

The yacht, which Tongan authorities were unable to search initially because of difficult tidal conditions and its remote location, was eventually found to be carrying the drugs in its hull.

Police and customs officials launched an investigation in August after being alerted that a vessel was en route from Ecuador to Australia.

They formed a special group with US authorities to examine vulnerabilities in the South Pacific being exploited by international organised crime syndicates.

"Vessels transiting through the Pacific into Australia have been identified as a high-risk area of drug smuggling," Mr Sharpe said.

In late 2010, Australian police said they had arrested four men in Sydney over a plot to smuggle almost 700kg (1,540lb) of cocaine into the country via Tonga.

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