Kiwi charged, named after meth-filled yacht seized off Aussie coast

Author
Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 20 Apr 2020, 10:07AM
Hundreds of kilograms of methamphetamine were intercepted. (Photo / AFP)
Hundreds of kilograms of methamphetamine were intercepted. (Photo / AFP)

Kiwi charged, named after meth-filled yacht seized off Aussie coast

Author
Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 20 Apr 2020, 10:07AM

The New Zealander arrested in a dramatic drug bust after a yacht carrying over 1000kg of methamphetamine was intercepted off the NSW coast can now be named.

He is 33-year-old Mark Robert Andrew Bishell.

According to his Facebook page he hails from Blenheim but his last known address in New Zealand was in Auckland's Freeman's Bay.

The most recent post on the page is from a friend who appeared to reference the arrest using emojis of a man, yachts and a police officer.

 

A 33-year-old New Zealand man and a 35-year-old with dual UK/South African citizenship were arrested. Photo / AFP

A 33-year-old New Zealand man and a 35-year-old with dual UK/South African citizenship were arrested. (Photo / AFP)

Bishell is jointly charged with Sebastian Seve Barnard -a 35-year-old man holding dual UK and South African citizenship.

The men were arrested on Saturday after Australian authorities seized the yacht they were on - the La Fayette - in waters off Lake Macquarie.

A search of the vessel uncovered 1009 blocks, each weighing approximately 1kg, of what police believe is methamphetamine.

One tonne of methamphetamine has a potential estimated street value in Australia of up to $750 million.

Bishell and Barnard appeared briefly in the Parramatta Local Court on Sunday morning.

They did not apply for bail and were remanded in custody until their next hearing on April 28.

The arrests were the result of a multi-agency and multi-national investigation dubbed Operation Romani.

The La Fayette first came to the attention of local authorities in New Caledonia last week.

They alerted the Australian Federal Police who worked with New South Wales Police and Australian Border Force to track, locate and intercept the yacht.

The yacht was towed by the police marine area command in Balmain on Saturday afternoon.

There, specialist forensic officers "deconstructed" the boat and examined its contents.

Further forensic testing will be undertaken to determine the exact weight and purity of the seized substances.

However, the AFP believes it is methamphetamine.

Bishell and Barnard are facing a charged of importing a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs.

If convicted both men face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

"Even as world borders are physically closing, police remain alert for attempts to infiltrate transnational borders to bring illicit drugs to Australian markets," said AFP Assistant Commissioner Eastern Command Justine Gough.

"Organised crime groups will stop at nothing – not even a global pandemic - to try and flood our communities with drugs for greed and profit.

"Our cross-border collaboration remains strong in these times, and through our relationships worldwide, we will not stop in our efforts to protect our communities from the destruction of illicit drugs."

ABF spokesman Garry Low said Operation Romani showed the importance of co-operation and shared intelligence across the South Pacific.

"The ABF continues to work closely with our law enforcement partners, here and abroad, to catch and prosecute criminals, no matter where in the supply chain they sit," he said.

"Criminal syndicates should know, that not only will we find your drugs concealments when they reach our sea ports and airports, but we're also watching your movements before you reach Australia.

"The ABF has eyes on our oceans, not just on our land borders."

Further arrests have not been ruled out.