Olympian Nathan Baggaley and his younger brother have been found guilty of drug importation charges after attempting to smuggle around $200 million worth of cocaine into Australia.
The brothers had pleaded not guilty and were tried in the Supreme Court after being charged with attempting to import a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug in July 2018.
However, a jury came to a different view and found that 39-year old Dru Baggaley and 45-year-old Nathan Baggaley had committed the offence.
It can now be revealed that both men had previously been convicted of serious drug offences.
The prosecution case was that Dru Baggaley had recruited another man, Anthony Draper, to help him collect 650 kilograms of cocaine from a foreign ship.
At the time, the ship was located over 360 kilometres off the coast of northern New South Wales.
Fortunately for Australian Federal Police (AFP), aerial surveillance captured the drug exchange on camera.
Within hours of the men loading their boat with dozens of the packages, they were pursued by a Royal Australian Navy patrol boat.
This footage was played in court, along with additional video footage that showed the men in a dramatic high sea chase.
The younger Baggaley was allegedly seen throwing dozens of bundles overboard before he was eventually caught by water police.
Nathan Baggaley Drug Charges
While Nathan Baggaley was not present during the sea chase or the drug exchange, the Crown case was that he part of the planning of the drug importation. It was suggested that he assisted his brother by buying the boat that was used in the scheme.
The prosecution also alleged that the elder Baggaley fitted the boat with navigation and satellite equipment before concealing its registration with tape.
Prosecutors argued that on the day of the offence, Nathan Baggaley had planned to meet his brother at the boat ramp when Dru returned from sea. From this stage, Nathan would be responsible for storing the drugs.
Defence to Drug Importation
The brothers pleaded not guilty at the start of the joint trial, with Nathan Baggaley's defence to the drug importation charges being that he did not know anything about his brother's scheme.
He admitted that he bought the boat with money given to him by Dru, but he was told it would be used to start a whale-watching business.
He told the jury, "I had no suspicions whatsoever that it was going to be used for anything like this...I had no idea any of this was going on."
The prosecution also suggested that he had used an encrypted messaging application to contact his brother while he was out at sea. Nathan denied this.
By contrast, Dru Baggaley's defence to the drug importation charges was that told Draper was the architect of the plan. Dru told the Court that he thought he would be importing tobacco.
The jury heard that he was only supposed to organise the purchase of the boat with money from Draper and had been physically forced to help him, after he agreed to navigate the boat out of the Brunswick River.
The younger Baggaley's evidence was that, "This guy has just turned on me. I went flying backwards and he just kept going straight out to sea. He goes 'you're coming with me whether you like it or not'."
He also claimed that Draper threatened if he did not help him, his "family is dead".
At the time of the trial, Draper was serving a jail sentence for drug supply charges due to his involvement in the plot. He had agreed to give evidence against the brothers in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Under cross-examination by the Baggaley's drug importation lawyers, it was revealed that Draper had sent letters to Dru Baggaley from prison, where he apologised for tricking him. Part of a letter read, "I'm thinking about talking to the AFP [Australian Federal Police] to get a discount on sentencing."
It can now be revealed the brothers had previously been convicted over their involvement in a drug manufacturing syndicate that produced a tablet hallucinogenic known as 2-CB in clandestine labs across Queensland and northern New South Wales.
In 2015, Nathan pleaded guilty to manufacturing a marketable quantity of amphetamines and conspiracy to manufacture the drug.
Dru pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the manufacture of a marketable quantity of the drug, as well as conspiracy to manufacture it.
Both were sentenced to more than two years in jail. The brothers were also convicted for other drug charges in 2009.
Under the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth), if you import, or intend to import a border-controlled drug, you can be guilty of an offence.
You can fight a drug importation charge in two ways. Firstly, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt:
- Import a substance OR Intend to import a substance
- That substance was a border controlled drug
- You were aware that it was a border controlled drug OR you knew there was a substantial risk it was a border controlled drug
If any of these elements are not made out, then you can be found 'not guilty'.
Secondly, you can rely on one of the defences to drug importation:
- You were forced to commit the offence
- Your actions were necessary
It is almost inevitable that you will be sentenced to a term of full-time imprisonment if you are guilty of importing a commercial or large commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.
The statistics set out that 100% of persons found guilty to this offence were sentenced to some form of prison. Only one person received an Intensive Correction order - the remainder were sentenced to full-time imprisonment. The length of imprisonment ranges from 6 years to over 20 years.
Plainly, jail is very likely for this offence. As such, you should speak to one of our specialist criminal defence lawyers for drug importation charges.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.