Cocaine was located in the hull of this yacht which was intercepted at Lake Macquarie. (Supplied: NSW Police)
Two men on trial over a 700-kilogram cocaine importation racket used encrypted mobile phones to help arrange for the drugs to be sailed from the South Pacific to Australia, a court has been told.
- The catamaran was tracked from Tahiti and police found 700 kilograms of cocaine on board
- Both accused men have pleaded not guilty and deny knowing that drugs were on the vessel
- The court is told the two men and others used encrypted mobile phones to help arrange the voyage to Australia
In November 2017, police tracked the catamaran Skarabej from Tahiti to Coffs Harbour before boarding the vessel at Lake Macquarie, south of Newcastle.
Police seized cocaine — 78 per cent pure — with a street value of around $245 million.
Craig William Lembke, 49, and Daniel Terence Percy are on trial for allegedly conspiring to import a commercial quantity of cocaine.
In his opening address, Mr Lembke’s barrister Peter Krisenthal told the court his client had never denied sailing the catamaran but denied ever knowing drugs were on board.
Craig Lembke denies knowing drugs were on board the catamaran he was hired to sail. (Supplied: Facebook)
“Mr Lembke’s case is very, very straightforward, and what that means ladies and gentleman is his case is, ‘I didn’t do it, I am not guilty’, he told the jury.
“Until 3:00pm on November 15 when he was arrested at a Warner’s Bay motel, he didn’t know there were drugs on board that boat.”
Mr Krisenthal went on to describe his client as a part-time yacht skipper for hire and a professional musician.
“He was a musician and a dreamer, not motivated by money. He survives on part-time jobs that involve his passions and his life revolves around his music and sailing,” he said.
Co-accused denies knowledge of drugs
Mr Percy’s barrister, Michael Tovey QC, also said his client was innocent.
“It is not in dispute that he met up with Mr Lembke and (another man), and he was from time to time on Skarabej with them and he executed paperwork enabling them to take the boat and sail out of Tahiti,” he said.
He added that his client made no attempt to hide or disguise his identity while he was in Tahiti, and that he was not expecting any large reward for helping to organise the paperwork for the South Pacific voyage.
“Ultimately in this case, numerous factors suggest Daniel was not a knowing member of this drug importation syndicate,” Mr Tovey said.
The Crown, however, argues that Mr Percy met and facilitated the transfer of the Skarabej and its illicit cargo into Mr Lembke’s possession.
Key players used encrypted phones, court hears
The court was told the two men and others in the alleged importation syndicate used several encrypted mobile phones before the Maltese-registered catamaran was sailed into Australia.
Code names referred to included “Prince”, “Brisk Eagle” and “Castilian”.
The encrypted phones were described in court as “blowers”, with the court told several were seized from the two men.
The court has heard that law enforcement officials from several international jurisdictions tapped phone calls and carried out surveillance of the two men.
Their joint trials are due to run for at least six weeks.