Death of Diver Led Cops to Staggering Cocaine Haul

Australian police fear drugs from total shipment worth $84M have already reached the public
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 10, 2022 9:25 AM CDT
Cops: $28M Cocaine Haul Was 'Just a Portion'
Stock photo showing a concealed brick of cocaine.   (Getty Images/CreativaImages)

The death of a diver on the side of a coastal river in Australia led authorities to at least 220 pounds of cocaine—and that's apparently just the tip of the white powder iceberg. A man in high-end diving equipment was found unconscious near the Hunter River in Newcastle, just over 100 miles north of Sydney, on Monday, and later died at the scene, according to New South Wales police. Nearby, authorities found several packages containing about 110 pounds of cocaine, thought to be worth $14 million, CNN reports. Police later said they'd seized another 110 pounds of white powder from a nearby cargo ship and the surrounding area.

They suspect the diver, who was originally from South America and traveled to Australia illegally, was trying to collect the drugs from the ship—reportedly named the Areti—when he drowned. But the 220-pound haul, worth about $28 million, was "just a portion of what was actually brought in on the ship," Organized Crime Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Rob Critchlow said, per ABC News. Police described the total shipment as about 660 pounds, with an estimated street value of $84 million. "We have information indicating that more drugs have been retrieved by this group and are now at large in the community," Critchlow said.

All members of the foreign crew of the ship, which is registered in the Marshall Islands and set to depart for Argentina later this week, have been cleared, the International Transport Federation told ABC, which reports some of the drugs were attached to the hull of the ship. The presence of two smaller boats near the vessel on Sunday night "indicates at least two other people" apart from the diver were involved, Critchlow said. He added "it's quite disgusting that this man has been left to die regardless of what he has been involved with." Police said the diver was using "specialized" equipment, including a rebreather, which allows people to stay underwater for extended periods without producing bubbles. (More cocaine stories.)

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