Officers then extinguished the fire and discovered a large number of incendiary items in the hull storage area. There were two boxes of fireworks, branded “BLOW EM UP BRO”, and 16 full jerry cans intermingled with the cocaine packages.
In court on Friday, Preca’s barrister Ertunç Özen said the ignition was a “last ditch panicked attempt to avoid apprehension by setting fire to what was in the hold” as police approached.
The raid was carried out on the vessel after the Air Force, using radar and infrared technology, observed it meeting with the Chinese mothership that had entered Australian waters.
On the morning of the raid, the seas were described by police as “very rough” with swells of 3.5 metres. During the boarding of the boat, an officer fell overboard and had to be rescued.
The cocaine on board had an estimated wholesale value of at least $300 million and a potential street value of $850 million.
The attempted shipment was disrupted by a joint operation involving the Australian Federal Police, NSW Police and Border Force.
In the sentencing hearing, the men’s barristers sought to downplay how senior their clients were in the drug importation scheme, saying they required supervision during the plot and were little more than hired labour or couriers for superiors who would receive and sell the drugs.
Giles-Adams’ barrister Peter Lange urged Judge Penelope Hock to consider that his client had good prospects of rehabilitation, was unlikely to reoffend, was relatively young, was of prior good character and had expressed remorse about his offending.
Mr Özen said Preca had only been involved in the scheme because he lost job in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and got into debt because of a drug habit.
“He was in the hands of those to whom he owed money and to pay it off he gets involved in this enterprise,” Mr Özen said.
“Had he not been laid off as a result of the pandemic, it is highly unlikely that he would have been involved in this offending behaviour.”
Judge Hock will sentence Giles-Adams and Preca on October 29.
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