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sail-world.com -- The Yacht that fell into foul company - drugs, dead body, wrecked

The Yacht that fell into foul company - drugs, dead body, wrecked    
Sat, 17 Nov 2012

Originally called Jonathan, until this year the 1991 Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 44 called Jereve lead the normal exotic life of a cruising boat with loving owners, sailing between the Med and the Caribbean. So how did she end up washed up on a reef in Tonga with 204kg of cocaine and the decomposed body of one of her crew? Authorities know some of the answers to the mystery but not all.


In the middle of this year, it was for sale in Panama. Then in August, acting on a tip-off from a US drug agency, Australian Federal Police began tracking the yacht after it cleared customs with two crew in Ecuador on August 20, indicating it was sailing across the Pacific towards Australia. It was a suspected drug operation by a known crime syndicate. Already aware of the identity of the two crew, they began to track its movements.

They lost track of it near the Cook Islands, but on October 05, just 35 days after it departed from Ecuador, the yacht reappeared, washed up on Luatatifo Atoll about 10nm from Tonga.

Some local divers made the gruesome discovery and reported their findings. Tongan authorities confirmed that there was a body on the deck, badly decomposed by the sun, and 204 1kg blocks of cocaine hidden in the hull, but no sign of the other crew member.

The whereabouts of the yacht's missing crew member is being investigated and the cause of death of the body found onboard is the subject of a Tongan inquest.

The questions remain. Is the other crew member still alive? If so where is he? Was there foul play in the death of the discovered crew member? Tongan authorities have not yet ruled the death suspicious, but the drugs on board tell their own story.

In an outstanding example of global and regional police co-operation, Tonga, Cook Islands, Australia and the USA have cooperated in the tracking of the yacht.

by Lee Mylchreest



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