Olympic silver medalist kayaker Nathan Baggaley and his younger brother Dru have been found guilty of taking part in a failed plot to import 650 kilograms of cocaine worth AU$200 million (US$152 million) into Australia.
Brisbane’s Supreme Court delivered its verdict on Thursday in the case of the brothers, who had pleaded not guilty but were ultimately convicted by a jury after a two-week trial.
The incident took place on July 31, 2018, when Dru Baggaley and boat driver Anthony Draper were arrested after a dramatic sea chase involving elements of Australia’s navy, air force and police.
According to the prosecution, Baggaley and Draper were attempting to collect 650 kilograms (1,430lbs) of cocaine from a foreign ship more than 360 kilometers (223 miles) off the coast of northern New South Wales when they were spotted by aerial surveillance.
Two hours after they picked up the cocaine, the two men were pursued by a Royal Australian Navy patrol boat that caught them with dozens of packages of the substance on board.
Footage taken by authorities from the air showed Baggaley and Draper being chased across the high seas and Dru dropping dozens of bundles overboard before they were eventually seized by Queensland water police.
Dru’s brother Nathan, a two-time silver medalist in kayaking, was not on the boat, but the prosecution alleged that he knew about the plot and had helped his brother buy the craft and outfit it with navigation and satellite equipment.
They pleaded not guilty. Nathan Baggaley, the kayaker, insisted his younger brother Dru had told him he was buying the boat for a whale-watching business.
And Dru Baggaley tried to prove he was innocent by saying he thought he was going to pick up packages of tobacco, not cocaine.
Draper, the boat driver, was also charged in the failed smuggling plot, pleaded guilty this year and received a 13-year jail term.
However, his sentence was reduced to a non-parole period of four years and three months after he testified against the Baggaley brothers.