Hunt for an Australian trio rescued at sea is sparked by a cocaine haul

Australian officials have launched a search for three men they rescued from the water two weeks ago after discovering a 365kg haul of cocaine.

On 1 February, the group was discovered clinging to an esky cold box off the coast of Western Australia.

They allegedly told police that their boat capsized while they were out fishing.

However, they now think the men were responsible for an international narcotics shipment and are pleading with them to come forward.

When the three was first saved on Eclipse Island, 17 km south of Albany in Western Australia, authorities applauded them and said in a press release that their case “highlighted the necessity of wearing a lifejacket and carrying an emergency beacon.”

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) was approached by WA police when they became aware of discrepancies in the trio’s account and they launched an inquiry.

A black plastic-wrapped box containing cocaine packets was discovered on a beach 54 kilometers (33 miles) west of Albany six days after the men were rescued.

Then, the following day, eight similarly wrapped packages, each containing roughly 40kg of cocaine, were found inside of an overturned cabin cruiser.

The drugs, according to the police, were taken from the ocean and transported by boat to land. It is unknown how the narcotics ended up in the ocean in the first place.

To help them find Mate Stipinovich, 49, Karl Whitburn, 45, all of Perth, and 36-year-old Aristides Avlontis, who is believed to be in the Northern Territory, detectives have now appealed to the general public.

The capsized boat’s registered owner is one of the WA males.

The interception of the drugs, according to AFP Acting Commander Graeme Marshall, would deliver a “major blow” to a “well-resourced cartel.”

According to the AFP, this seizure has prevented more than $235 million in drug-related harm to the community, including linked crime, medical expenses, and lost productivity.

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