James Blee Arrested at Australian Airport Over $20M Cocaine Haul Found Floating Near Lifeless Diver

A veteran superyacht captain and scuba diver whose excursions have been touted by his firm as “past legendary” has been arrested after 110 kilos of cocaine bricks have been discovered close to the washed-up physique of a diver, based on Australian authorities.

James “Jimmy” Blee was taken into custody on Wednesday afternoon at Cairns Airport, the place he’d tried to board a airplane that might have taken him from Queensland to Singapore, police mentioned. The 62-year-old Australian citizen was charged with two drug importation offenses, based on The Guardian.

While New South Wales authorities sought Blee’s extradition to their state on Thursday, investigators have been working to find out how a bootleg drug provide value greater than $20 million had ended up within the waters of the New South Wales port of Newcastle on Monday.

The haul was found shortly after an unconscious man was discovered on a riverbank close by, carrying subtle diving gear designed to cover floor traces of underwater exercise. The man, whom authorities haven’t recognized, died at the scene. He was believed to have been South American.

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New South Wales detective Robert Critchlow instructed reporters it appeared the person had been “left to die” at the scene by at least one different confederate, Australia’s ABC News reported.

“People don’t scuba dive alone,” Critchlow added, based on The Australian. “It’s one thing of concern that there’s evidently extra folks concerned than the lifeless man.”

It was not instantly clear if authorities believed Blee had been current at the Newcastle port this week.

The 62-year-old is a “maritime skilled and devoted marine conservationist with greater than 30 years expertise with luxurious yachting all through South East Asia,” based on a website for North Queensland Superyacht Marine & Tours, an organization he co-founded after returning to Australia two years in the past. Prior to 2020, Blee had lived and labored for many years in Indonesia, based on his LinkedIn profile, the place he consulted on and chartered luxurious yacht journeys and “expedition-style cruises.”

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“With his 25 years of expertise and contacts in Asia, Jimmy has a network that spreads far and smart all through the area,” his biography reported.

The captain’s expertise at navigating Southeast Asian waters have been “past legendary,” he boasted on his LinkedIn, leaving him in “nice demand” as a information. Also a “eager diver” in his personal estimation, Blee’s biography mentioned that he had accrued greater than 3,000 dives, most of them “within the waters of japanese Indonesia.”

The pandemic apparently scuttled his marine business pursuits in Indonesia, although Blee appeared optimistic about the long run. “Once post-COVID actually does begin to kick in, I’m fairly certain we will see some adventures,” he mentioned on a May 2021 podcast episode of SuperYacht Radio, based on the Daily Mail. “Pretty thrilling occasions for everybody.”

Remaining docked close to the scene on Thursday was a South American cargo ship, which police mentioned had originated from Argentina, hauling a cargo of soybean powder into Newcastle on Sunday night. Authorities have mentioned they consider the huge drug cargo had been strapped to and stashed contained in the ship, which is registered to the Marshall Islands because the Areti GR Majuro.

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Port officers had noticed a small rubber dinghy and a 5-meter aluminum speedboat floating close to the ship that evening, Critchlow mentioned. Only a “portion” of the haul is believed to have ended up within the water, ABC News reported, with greater than 400 kilos of cocaine believed to be unaccounted for.

“It’s a high-end, subtle operation,” the detective alleged.

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