Sixteen men arrested over $60m cocaine bust on ex-Japanese whaling boat

Mel Buttigieg

Two criminal syndicates allegedly working together to import and distribute $60 million worth of cocaine into Australia have been dismantled, following 16 arrests across the country.

An ex-Japanese whaling vessel was escorted into the Port of Hobart in December, where the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Border Force (ABF) and Tasmania Police seized about 186 kilograms of cocaine.

Maritime Border Command, a multi-agency Taskforce within the ABF, began monitoring the 50-metre boat in mid-November and tracked it moving south down the west coast of Australia, across the Great Australian Bight and towards the Tasmanian coastline.

Sixteen men will appear in court over an alleged plan to import $60 million worth of cocaine on an ex-Japanese whaling boat. Pictures: 7 News

Police allegedly found 186kg of cocaine on board what they described as the "mothership" where the intended drug deals would be carried out.

The alleged crewmen - nine Chinese and one Singaporean were charged with attempting to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug and will face court.

Separately, Victorian and federal police arrested six Australian nationals in Melbourne and Queensland on Wednesday after carrying out 15 raids across the states.

A 50-metre ex-Japanese whaling vessel was intercepted in December. Picture: 7 News

Officers on Wednesday seized about $93,000 cash, drugs, stolen boats and a pill press after searching houses, factories and boats in Victoria and hotel rooms in Queensland.

Police will allege the six men arrested in these raids made several attempts to launch a vessel from Australia to meet the commercial ship seized in December, with the intent of transporting the cocaine back to Australia for distribution to multiple drug trafficking syndicates.

The men were charged with attempting to import a border controlled drug, namely cocaine.

They are currently before the Southport Magistrates Court, the Brisbane Magistrates Court and the Melbourne Magistrates Court.