Two-time Olympic silver medalist jailed for drug smuggling

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Two-time Olympic silver medal-winning kayaker Nathan Baggaley and his younger brother have been jailed for more than 20 years each for trying to smuggle up to 200 million Australian dollars ($147 million) worth of cocaine into Australia.

The pair was found guilty by a Brisbane Supreme Court jury in April of attempting to import a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug in July 2018. During their trial in Brisbane, the court heard Dru Baggaley, 39, and another man travelled hundreds of miles offshore from northern New South Wales state and picked up 650 kilograms (1,430 pounds) of the drug from a foreign ship.

It also heard the men began throwing the drugs overboard on their way back to the mainland, when they spotted an Australian Navy patrol boat chasing them. The two men were arrested by Queensland Water Police shortly after the pursuit.

Nathan Baggaley, who won silver medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics in the K-1 and K-2 over 500 meters and is a three-time world champion over the K-1 500 distance, was charged almost a year later after it was determined he purchased and fitted out the boat which was used during the failed plot.

Lawyers for the men argued Dru Baggaley had believed the dozens of packages contained tobacco, while Nathan Baggaley knew nothing about a plan to import any illicit substance.

Judge Justice Ann Lyons rejected the brothers’ claims and sentenced them Tuesday on the basis that Dru Baggaley was a “principal organizer” of the operation and his brother Nathan was “actively involved” on the day the two men went to sea, and was set to be rewarded substantially for his role.

Nathan Baggaley, 45, will have to serve 12 years in custody before he is eligible to apply for parole, while Dru Baggaley will be eligible to apply for parole after 16 years.

Nathan Baggaley was banned for taking steroids in 2005 while still competing as a kayaker. The brothers were jailed in 2009 for manufacturing and supplying large numbers of ecstasy tablets, and again in 2015 for producing party pills and conspiring to make methamphetamine.

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