Australian Olympic medallist found guilty, facing life in jail over $217m cocaine smuggling plot

An Olympic-medal winning kayaker has been found guilty of attempting to smuggle hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cocaine into Australia.

Australian Nathan Jon Baggaley, 45, and younger brother Dru Anthony Baggaley, 39, were accused of attempting to import 650kg of cocaine in 2018, worth approximately NZ$217m. 

The pair were found guilty by a Brisbane Supreme Court jury on Thursday, following more than eight hours of deliberation.

A world champion and 2004 Olympic silver medallist, Baggaley's career has long been tarnished by drug scandals.

In 2005, he tested positive for a banned substance and was banned for 24 months, while he was sentenced to two years jail time in 2015 alongside brother Dru for involvement in a drug manufacturing syndicate.

It was alleged that Dru Baggaley and another man, Anthony Draper, attempted to collect 650kg of cocaine from a foreign ship over 360km off the coast of New South Wales.

A Royal Australian Navy patrol boat pursued the pair, who had loaded their own boat with "dozens of packages," with the exchange captured by aerial surveillance.

Dru Baggaley is alleged to have then disposed of the packages overboard, before the pair were apprehended by Queensland water police.

Nathan Baggaley is alleged to have been aware of his younger brother's plan, and purchased the boat used in the smuggling attempt. He is also alleged to have fitted the boat with navigation and satellite equipment, before concealing its registration with tape.

Both men pleaded not guilty to the charge of attempting to import a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug, while Nathan claimed the boat in question was purchased to be used to start a whale-watching business.

Dru Baggaley told the court Draper was the orchestrator of the plot, and that he was told they were importing tobacco. Dru also told the court Draper said if he did not help him his "family is dead".

Draper, who is currently serving jail time for his involvement in the plot, agreed to testify against the Baggaley brothers in exchange for a reduced sentence. When giving evidence, it was revealed Draper had sent letters to Dru from prison, apologising for tricking him.

Both men will be sentenced at a later date, and will face the prospect of life in jail.