Body and 200kg of cocaine found on shipwrecked yacht off Tonga

Friday 16 November 2012 23.40
Australian Federal Police officers were involved in the search
Australian Federal Police officers were involved in the search

Tongan authorities have seized more than 200kg of cocaine and found a decomposed body on a shipwrecked yacht that ran aground on the island of Lautatifo near Tonga.

The drugs were concealed in the hull of the 13-metre yacht JeReVe.

The Australia Federal Police (AFP) joined forces with the Tongan Police, Cook Islands Police and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration to search for the vessel.

The AFP reported that tidal conditions and the remote location of the yacht hampered the investigation.

It took authorities several days over the past week to reach and examine the JeReVe.

AFP Acting Assistant Commissioner David Sharpe said: "Tonga Police response involved the Tongan Navy and as a result of a marine recovery effort in that region a vessel was identified and a badly decomposed body of a male person was located on board that vessel.

"Also located on board that vessel was 204 1kg blocks of cocaine destined for the Australian market."

He continued: "As a part of our response to the Tongan rescue effort the Australian Federal Police has provided forensic services members to assist with the crime scene investigation and forensic pathologist to assist with post-mortem inquiries and the coronial aspects of that body identified on board.

The AFP has reported that organised crime syndicates were increasingly targeting Australia via the South Pacific.

"The seizure of the 204kg of cocaine has successfully stopped approximately $116m worth of cocaine reaching Australia's shores," said David Sharpe.

The AFP said it received intelligence from the United States Drug Enforcement Agency in August that an organised crime syndicate had launched the vessel from Ecuador bound for Australia.