An eccentric superyacht tour operator has been charged with the manslaughter and smuggling of a drug mule as part of an alleged more than $20m cocaine plot in NSW’s Hunter Region earlier this year.
The dead body of a diver, 31-year-old Brazilian national Bruno Borges Martins, was found floating in the water by emergency services near the Port of Newcastle back on May 9.
Despite the efforts of witnesses and paramedics, Mr Martins could not be revived.
Authorities discovered 54kg of cocaine nearby and suspected Mr Martins drowned while trying to retrieve them.
Police described the alleged drug operation as “high-end” and “sophisticated”.
Strike Force Groove was established to investigate the incident, which resulted in superyacht tour operator James “Jimmy” Blee being arrested in Cairns on May 11 as he prepared to board a one-way flight to Singapore.
Police have previously alleged that Mr Blee travelled from Indonesia to Darwin with Mr Borges and another man in the days prior to the death and discovery of the cocaine.
It was further alleged that Mr Blee and Mr Borges were filmed on CCTV buying top-of-the-range diving equipment from a Newcastle diving shop.
The 62-year-old was charged over his alleged role in the importation of the cocaine and remains before the courts.
Following further inquiries, strike force detectives and Australian Border Force officers attended a Grafton correctional facility and arrested Mr Blee about 11am on Tuesday.
He has since been charged with manslaughter, two counts of people smuggling, and knowingly deal with proceeds of crime.
Police will allege Mr Blee engaged in unlawful activity that resulted in Mr Martins’ death
They will also allege he illegally smuggled Mr Martins and an associate from Indonesia into Australia.
Mr Blee was remanded in custody and is next due to appear at Downing Centre Local Court on October 5.
Investigations under Strike Force Groove are ongoing.