An experienced superyacht captain and diver whose tours have been touted as “beyond legendary” by his company has been arrested after Australian authorities say 110 pounds of cocaine stones were found near the body of a diver that washed ashore.
James “Jimmy” Blee was taken into custody Wednesday afternoon at Cairns airport where he had attempted to board a plane that would have taken him from Queensland to Singapore, police said. The 62-year-old Australian citizen was charged with two drug import violations the guard†
As New South Wales authorities demanded the extradition of Blee to their state on Thursday, investigators were busy determining how an illicit drug supply worth more than $20 million ended up in the waters off Newcastle harbor on Monday.
The loot was discovered shortly after an unconscious man was found on a nearby riverbank wearing sophisticated diving gear designed to hide surface traces of underwater activity. The man, whom authorities have not identified, died at the scene. He was believed to have been South American.
South Wales Detective Robert Critchlow told reporters it appeared the man at the scene had been “left to die” by at least one other accomplice, Australia’s ABC News reported.
“People don’t just dive,” Critchlow added, according to the Australian† “It is of concern that apparently more people are involved than the dead man.”
It was not immediately clear whether authorities believed Blee was present in Newcastle harbor this week.
The 62-year-old is a “maritime professional and committed marine conservationist with over 30 years of experience in luxury sailing across South East Asia,” according to a website of North Queensland Superyacht Marine & Tours, a company he co-founded after his retirement. return. to Australia two years ago. Before 2020, according to his LinkedIn profile, Blee had lived and worked for decades in Indonesia, advising and chartering luxury yacht trips and “expedition-style cruises.”
“With his 25 years of experience and contacts in Asia, Jimmy has a network that spreads far and wide throughout the region,” his biography states.
The captain’s skills in navigating Southeast Asian waters were “beyond legendary,” he boasted on his LinkedIn, leaving “high demand” as a guide. Also an “avid diver” by his own estimation, Blee’s biography said he had made more than 3,000 dives, most of them “in the waters of eastern Indonesia”.
The pandemic has apparently scuttled his maritime business interests in Indonesia, though Blee seemed optimistic about the future. “Once post-COVID really kicks in, I’m pretty sure we’re going to see some adventures,” he said in a May 2021 podcast episode of superyacht radio, according to the Daily mail. “Pretty exciting times for everyone.”
Docked near the crime scene on Thursday was a South American freighter, which police said was from Argentina, carrying a cargo of soybean powder to Newcastle on Sunday evening. Authorities have said they believe the massive drug shipment was tied to and hidden inside the ship, which is registered in the Marshall Islands as the Areti GR Majuro.
Port officials had seen a small dinghy and a 5-foot aluminum speedboat float near the ship that night, Critchlow said. Only a “portion” of the catch is believed to have ended up in the water, ABC News reported, with more than 400 pounds of cocaine believed to be missing.
“It’s a sophisticated, sophisticated operation,” the detective claimed.
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