How a Sydney man’s plot to import 500kg of cocaine in a yacht was thwarted18th May 2021
A Sydney man will spend at least nine years behind bars for trying to smuggle more than 500 kilograms of cocaine into Australia in a yacht via the Solomon Islands.
Police said Zhen Tao Qi, 43, of Wahroonga, was a key organiser in the importation plot that was thwarted by an “unprecedented” international investigation.
The cocaine had been loaded into a Belgian-registered, double-masted yacht in South America, before it set off en route to Australia.
It contained 501 kilograms of the drug with a street value of up to $250 million, professionally concealed within the vessel.
But the shipment was being tracked by a multi-nation investigation involving Australian, Solomon Islands and the United States police, as well as the Australian Border Force and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.
Authorities pounced on the yacht on September 27, 2018, when it was docked in the Solomon Islands capital Honiara.
As the search of the vessel was underway, police in Australia launched coordinated raids across Sydney.
Qi and a 41-year-old Bonnyrigg Heights man, Zhen Zhao, were arrested and four search warrants conducted in Wahroonga, Bonnyrigg Heights, Dolls Point and Caringbah.
Earlier this month, Qi, whom police describe as one of the key organisers of the attempted importation, was sentenced to 14 years and five months’ prison for his role.