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Coke-smuggling probe: a tale of 3 divers

smuggling – Borges, Da Silver and Blee
From left: Bruno Borges, Jhoni Fernandes Da Silva and Jimmy Blee

The rebreather diver whose body was found in the Australian port of Newcastle on 9 May with 50kg of cocaine wrapped in waterproof packaging has now been named as Brazilian national Bruno Borges.

Identified by friends and embassy officials, the 31-year-old is described as a professional diver and rope technician, based in Espirito Santo on Brazil’s south-east coast.

He is believed to have travelled to Australia after being hired to help retrieve smuggled cocaine from the hull of the bulk-carrier Areti GR, recently arrived in Newcastle from Argentina, as reported on Divernet on 10 May and in subsequent updates.

Jhoni Fernandes Da Silva, 32, who has also been identified as Brazilian, is now thought to have been the second diver involved in the bungled retrieval operation. New South Wales Police’s Organised Crime Squad has issued a warrant for his arrest.

The police have issued security footage of Da Silva with an unidentified woman who they also want to question in connection with the investigation.

They allege that, shortly before the events in Newcastle, Borges and another man had crossed from Indonesia to Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory with 62-year-old superyacht tour organiser Jimmy Blee, who is also a scuba diver. Blee and Borges were reportedly then caught on a Newcastle dive shop’s CCTV buying “top of the range” diving equipment. 

One-way ticket

Blee was arrested on 11 May, two days after Borges’ body was found, while trying to board a flight on a one-way ticket to Singapore. He was carrying the equivalent of more than £20,000 in cash.

He is being held in jail in New South Wales on large-scale drug-smuggling charges, having withdrawn his initial decision to apply for bail, but has yet to enter a plea. His case is set to be heard on 13 July.

As much as 300kg of cocaine is believed to have been included in the original consignment, although only 104kg has been retrieved so far. The police believe that the Australian incident is linked to another 179kg of the drug found floating in the sea near the Indonesian port of Merak on 10 May. 

In that case four packages containing cocaine valued at £66 million were spotted by naval security personnel, constituting one of Indonesia’s biggest individual narcotics finds. According to the navy, throwing buoyed drug packages into the sea for later retrieval by speedboat is a common tactic in Indonesia, where smugglers can face execution if caught.

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