A superyacht tour operator and diving expert has been arrested as he allegedly tried to flee the country after a diver was killed trying to find $20 million worth of cocaine in the hull of a ship.
Dock workers in Newcastle, NSW, found the diver unconscious in the water at 9:30 am Monday, surrounded by floating blocks of cocaine after drug trafficking went tragically wrong.
On Wednesday, Jimmy Blee, 62 – who runs North Queensland Superyacht Marine and Tours out of Cairns – was stopped by federal police when he tried to board a flight bound for Singapore.
The father of three, who has an Indonesian wife, is expected to be extradited to NSW on Friday on charges of importing a large commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs and a large commercial drug supply.
Blee organizes luxury yachting, fishing and diving tours through Indonesia, Northern Queensland and the Whitsundays, as well as providing consultancy services to other yacht owners and operators.
Jimmy Blee, 62, (pictured here with his wife and children) was stopped by police on Wednesday as he tried to board a flight from Cairns to Singapore
Jimmy Blee is a well-known character among local yacht operators in Cairns
A well-known character among local yacht operators, he unsuccessfully applied for the 2019 Australian Survivor series after appearing in a 2013 Malaysian paint commercial.
In his audition tape for Survivor, he jokingly claimed that he had lived in his backyard for 10 days in preparation for the series, surviving on a diet of rainwater and worms.
In several interviews about his business, he bragged about his network of experienced divers.
“We have slowly developed a great team of ‘Top Gun’ diving experts who work exceptionally well as onboard dive/guides,” he said of his diving trips to the Papua region of Indonesia aboard the luxury charter boat Amandira.
His website adds: ‘With his 25 years of experience and contacts in Asia, Jimmy has a network that spreads far and wide.
“In addition, Jimmy, an avid diver, has made more than 3,000 dives, most of them in eastern Indonesia waters.”
Jimmy Blee organizes luxury sailing, fishing and diving trips through Indonesia, North Queensland and the Whitsundays
Blee was arrested following an investigation by Strike Force Groove after the body of a diver and 54kg of cocaine were found in Newcastle harbor, NSW, on Monday.
The dead man was wearing technical diving gear — which allowed the diver to operate without leaving an insidious trail of bubbles — when he was found unconscious in the water at 9:30 a.m. Monday by dock workers.
The dockers and paramedics desperately tried to save the man, but he… died on the spot. The diver is believed to be a stranger from South America and the police are trying to contact his family abroad.
A waterproof bag of cocaine blocks was found near his body and more yellow-sealed blocks of the drug were found nearby.
A man has been arrested in connection with the death of a diver who tried to recover $20 million worth of cocaine from the hull of a ship in Newcastle
Police divers pictured during a salvage operation after a diver was found dead near a massive cocaine seizure
Detectives believe he was part of a drug smuggling operation that employed “old school” tactics rarely used by modern drug syndicates.
Police divers inspect under the cargo ship areti. Gr Majuro and found the huge amount of cocaine in the sea chest – which is normally filled with seawater – in the hull.
The ship had arrived Sunday evening after a month-long voyage with soy from Argentina. Two small boats were spotted near the docked ship in Newcastle on Sunday evening.
It is believed that the drug cartel had started the operation to get the drugs back when the diver ran into trouble and was left heartless to die by his associates.
A massive interstate operation involving NSW and the Queensland Police, the Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Patrol agents led to Blee’s arrest on Wednesday.
His business partners declined to comment, but a fellow superyacht operator in Cairns admitted he was shocked by the news.
A scene from aboard one of Blee’s superyachts posted to his Facebook page
“This was a well-trained professional group, who were comfortable shipping drugs on a ship around the world,” said Chief Inspector Rob Critchlow of the NSW Police Organized Crime Squad.
“They knew exactly what they were doing. “These people have fled, so it’s kind of disgusting that this man is left to die, regardless of what he was involved in.”
He added: ‘NSW Police and our partners have known for some time that Newcastle Port is a drug shipping port.
‘There have been some indications in the past of [bikie gang] involvement around the docks, and we’ve been working very closely with our partners to remove them from the system.
The body of a man wearing technical diving gear (pictured) has washed up in a busy harbor where police suspect he tried to land a $20 million cocaine using ‘old school’ smuggling tactics rarely seen by modern drug syndicates
“But it’s still a risk point, because every port has a lot of movements – so a lot of ships, a lot of trucks, a lot of people, so it’s easier to hide drugs in there.”
A police spokesperson added: “The investigation into Strike Force Groove is still ongoing.”
Source: New feed