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Feature: Drug seizure in Solomon Islands

In September 2018, we worked with domestic and international partners on a joint investigation that resulted in the seizure of approximately 500 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a yacht in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

The complex organised crime investigation, Project Sontag, involved the ACIC, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Border Force, the New South Wales Police Force and, internationally, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

Project Sontag’s role was to investigate a syndicate based in Columbia and believed to be transporting cocaine in a sailing vessel from South America to Australia. A yacht called the Vieux Malin was identified and, with the assistance of the Australian Border Force, was tracked through the Pacific.

The syndicate planned to drop the drugs about 200 nautical miles off the east coast of Australia. From there, the cocaine would be collected and delivered to Sydney. If the drugs had made the journey, they would have had a potential street value of up to $300 million in Australia.

Australian Federal Police officers and forensic crime scene investigators were deployed to Solomon Islands to work alongside the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force to search the yacht and assist with collecting evidence, locating approximately 500 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside the vessel.

In addition to the drug seizure, the joint agency investigation also resulted in the arrest of two men in Sydney for their alleged roles in facilitating and financing the importation.

Our agency provided the intelligence to commence the investigation, surveillance, covert strategies and covert resources and was instrumental in bringing the investigation to a successful resolution.

Those efforts have strengthened our relationships and collaboration with our international partners, enhancing our ability to identify and leverage strategic opportunities to create a more hostile environment for transnational serious and organised crime impacting Australia.