SYDNEY (AP) — An Australian businessman who was allegedly part of a criminal syndicate that smuggled 1.28 metric tons (1.41 U.S. tons) of cocaine inside a shipment of prefabricated steel from China faced a Sydney court on Thursday after becoming the last of three accused conspirators to be extradited from Serbia.
Tristan Waters, 35, was the last of three Australian alleged accomplices to be charged in a Sydney court with helping to import Australia’s second-largest cocaine haul valued at $400 million. The illicit drug was found in 2,576 individual blocks inside a shipping container aboard a Chinese freighter docked in Sydney in April 2017.
Serbian police arrested Waters, Rohan Arnold, 44, and David Campbell, 49, at gunpoint in the foyer of a luxury Belgrade hotel in January last year and they each fought extradition to Australia.
All three have now been charged in Sydney with drug smuggling offenses that carry potential sentences of life imprisonment.
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Waters did not apply for bail or enter pleas when he appeared by a video link in Sydney’s Central Local Court. He will appear in the court next on Feb. 13.
He left Australia for the United Arab Emirates in 2016. Court documents list a luxurious hotel on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah canals as his address there.
Arnold was extradited from Serbia in March last year and Campbell in July.
Prosecutors allege the trio was lured to the Belgrade hotel by an undercover police operative who told them the cocaine had been mistakenly delivered to New Zealand. They were told they would have to hand over $3 million to get the drugs back.
The largest Australian cocaine haul was 1.4 metric tons (1.5 U.S. tons) found in February 2017 in a yacht that had allegedly smuggled it from the South Pacific. Six people were charged and face potential life prison sentences.
That larger haul was valued at only around $210 million because its purity was lower than the second-largest haul.