SYDNEY Australian law enforcement agencies seized a record 1.4 tonnes of cocaine worth A$312 million ($239.5 million) from an Australia-bound yacht during a covert midnight operation last week, the authorities said on Monday.
Six men, including five Australians, have been charged with the conspiracy to import drugs and could face life imprisonment, Justice Minister Michael Keenan and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said in a joint statement.
This is the largest cocaine haul ever seized in a single operation in Australia and is over 400 kgs (880 pounds) greater than the previous record of 938 kgs (2,06 pounds) in Western Australia state in 2001, they said.
"The interception was the result of a dogged, two and a half year, multi-agency pursuit involving the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force and New Zealand Customs Service," the ministers said in the statement.
The cocaine could have resulted in 1.4 million street deals, they added, without providing details of the latest seizure.
Keenan told a press conference that the street value of cocaine in Australia was up to 9 times more than that of the United States, making the South Pacific island nation an attractive market for drug peddlers.
($1 = 1.3028 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Michael Perry)