Australian Border Force patrol Geraldton ports as details of record-breaking methamphetamine bust revealed

Headshot of Tim Clarke
Tim ClarkeGeraldton Guardian
Border Force officers patrol Geraldton last week in an operation to target drug smuggling at regional ports.
Camera IconBorder Force officers patrol Geraldton last week in an operation to target drug smuggling at regional ports. Credit: Australian Border Force

The skipper of a boat that sailed into WA with more than a tonne of meth on board has told of the moment when the captain of an Asian mothership demanded “money”.

The Australian Border Force held high surveillance operations in Geraldton last week, patrolling the Batavia Marina boat ramp, Geraldton fishing harbour and the Geraldton Port in a bid to detect illicit drugs being smuggled into the city.

The patrols come after the ABF made a record-breaking seizure of methamphetamine in 2017.

One-time oyster farmer Joshua Smith will be one of the central witnesses in the case against Patrick Bouhamdan, who is on trial for allegedly being a key player in the 2017 importation of 1.2 tonnes of the deadly drug into Geraldton.

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A jury in WA’s Supreme Court was told how months of planning went into bringing the enormous drugs payload into Australia — which had been mirrored by months of investigation and surveillance by the Australian Federal Police.

One of the people they were watching was Mr Smith — who told how he had been recruited for a job “out west” in July 2017.

He was told that the job involved something in the region of 800kg.

He described how within days of meeting his contacts — which allegedly included Mr Bouhamdan — he was in Perth, sea testing a $300,000 cruiser called the Valkoista which was paid for by someone else and put in his name.

And within hours of that sea test in rough seas, he described leaving Hillarys for a mid-ocean rendezvous with a mothership, with Mr Bouhamdan allegedly on board.

Prosecutors claim the July trip was the first of two made by the Valkoista in 2017 — both intended to bring vast quantities of drugs into the west coast of Australia, with a plan to then drive them east.

Mr Smith said in December he was back in Perth and back with Mr Bouhamdan.

And on December 18, the Valkoista was back on the high seas, with more co-ordinates for another mid-ocean meeting.

“The purpose was to pick up more drugs . . . It was their preference to meet at night,” Mr Smith said.

Which is what they did — with an AFP listening device also on board.

Recordings played to the jury captured confused voices before one shouts “money”.

Mr Smith said that was the captain of the Asian mothership asking for the sign to start unloading the drugs.

That sign, said Mr Smith, was half a $10 Hong Kong banknote. The captain had one half.

Mr Smith told the jury his shipmate Mr Bouhamdan had the other.

Then, large packages began being thrown on to the deck of the Valkoista.

The trial earlier was told how when the Valkoista returned three days later, it was allegedly carrying 60 bags, all packed with dozens of 1kg packages of high-purity methamphetamine.

WA’s Supreme Court was told that after watching the shipmates walk to an all-night Hungry Jack’s for a feed, heavily armed police made their move — arresting the Valkoista’s skipper, a ground crew unloading the drugs and Mr Bouhamdan.

Mr Bouhamdan denies the charge of importing a commercial quantity of meth into Australia.

His barrister, Julie Condon KC, said the “form and substance” of the allegations against the South Australian came from Mr Smith — and that his evidence should be closely scrutinised.

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