National

NSW man pleads to botched cocaine import

By AAP Newswire

A former surfing champion who out-gunned the Australian navy in an inflatable boat carrying half a tonne of cocaine has admitted to trying to import the drugs.

Anthony Trevor Draper was promised $10,000 if he skippered the vessel to allegedly help two other men collect what he believed was cannabis off the NSW coast in 2018.

Draper, from Manly, on Wednesday pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Supreme Court to attempting to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug.

"He knew precisely that he was getting himself into something that he ought not to be involved in," Draper's barrister Russell Pearce told the court.

"But he insists, and has insisted consistently that he didn't know, certainly he didn't know it was cocaine, didn't know the volume of the drug ... and certainly didn't know the value of what he was getting involved in."

But by the time the 55-year-old realised what was inside the packages, it was too late.

The surfboard maker and skilled seafarer later learnt he was picking up 512kg of cocaine dumped by masked men armed with assault weapons aboard a pirate-like ship in the dead of night.

"It was impossible for him to back out of what he was already in," Mr Pearce told the court.

Draper had driven for 10 hours under the cover of darkness with a seasick co-accused.

Investigators were watching as the two men packed the drugs into their rigid inflatable.

Then the 58-metre long ADV Cape Fourcroy appeared, with a lieutenant on board photographing Draper at the wheel and one of his co-accused in the rear.

The co-accused told Draper to flee.

For 200km they hightailed it across the ocean while being followed by a fixed-wing aircraft and then a helicopter.

Packages of cocaine carrying a combined street value of more than $100 million were hurled overboard.

Thirty of those were picked up by authorities and nine more turned up on various Australian beaches for months afterwards.

The men were arrested as they motored towards the seaside town of Brunswick Heads.

Draper will be sentenced on Thursday.