Former Olympic kayaker Nathan Baggaley has been jailed for 25 years for trying to smuggle up to $200 million AUD ($147 million USD) worth of cocaine into Australia in 2018.
Two-time Olympic silver medalist Baggaley, 45, was arrested alongside his 39-year-old brother Dru after Dru and another man travelled hundreds of kilometres offshore from northern New South Wales in an inflatable boat and picked up 650-kilograms of cocaine from a foreign ship. When they spotted a Navy patrol boat chasing them on their way back to shore, the men began throwing the drugs overboard, a court heard.
Thirty packages were recovered by the Navy, while others washed ashore at various locations off the east coast of Australia. Once recovered, the parcels collectively contained 512 kilograms of pure cocaine, in 650 kilograms of white powder, with an approximate street value of between $95.5 million and $147 million dollars.
Both men were arrested following the naval pursuit, and Nathan was charged in 2019 after it was determined that he purchased and fitted out the boat used during the mission and fitted it with a GPS system and a telephone satellite kit.
Supreme Court Justice Ann Lyons declared that the former Olympian was “actively involved” in the operation and was set to be handsomely rewarded for his role. She described his brother Dru as the “principal organiser,” but noted that both played an “important role.” Justice Lyons also rejected the defence lawyers’ claims that Dru thought the packages contained tobacco and that Nathan knew nothing about a plan to import illicit substances.
Their motivation was “purely for financial gain,” she said.
The court further heard that both men had “extensive” criminal histories across multiple states, and that both of them had previously served time in prison over serious drug-related offences. Nathan was sentenced to 25 years in jail, and will be eligible for parole after serving 12. Dru was sentenced to 28 years in jail with a non-parole period of 16 years.
Nathan Baggaley has a checkered history when it comes to illicit substances. The three-time kayaking world champion tested positive for banned steroids in 2005. In 2007, police searched Baggaley’s car and found 800 ecstasy tablets, cannabis and cash. In 2009 he pleaded guilty to one count of manufacturing more than 1,500 ecstasy tablets and two counts of supply. And he was arrested again in November 2013 for helping to produce 18,000 tablets of the psychedelic drug 2CB and planning to produce methamphetamine.
Baggaley was also arrested in 2007 after allegedly stealing a surf ski from a surf club in Byron Bay.
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