Skip to content

Drugs Paddler: Olympic Kayak Hero Faces Jail Time For Botched $150M Coke Smuggling Plot

Silver medalist Nathan Baggaley and his brother were already on parole for trying to make crystal meth, court hears. 

BRISBANE, Australia — Former world champion kayaker Nathan Baggaley and his younger brother are set to be sentenced over a bungled cocaine-smuggling plot.

The brothers were each found guilty by a jury in April of attempting to import up to AU$200 million ($147.4 million) worth of cocaine into the country.

Brisbane Supreme Court Justice Ann Lyons is due to sentence both men on July 27.

Dru Baggaley, 39, and another man Anthony Draper went on an 11-hour, 223-mile journey out to sea on a rigid-hulled inflatable boat on July 30, 2018, to meet a foreign freighter carrying packages of cocaine.

The men retrieved bundles thrown off the ship, but on their returnflung them into the sea when pursued by an Australian navy vessel.

Both men were arrested before they reached the mainland.

Olympian canoeist Nathan Baggaley leaves Central Local Court in Sydney after pleading guilty to drugs charges. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP Image)

Bundles recovered at the time, together with those that washed ashore for months after, contained 1433 pounds of white powder containing cocaine worth between AU$130 million ($95.87 million) and AU$200 million ($147.5 million)

The three-time world champion—who was on parole at the time of the importation attempt—was arrested almost a year later.

Justice Lyons earlier rejected Dru Baggaley’s claim he should be sentenced on the basis he intended only to import tobacco. Draper had written letters from his prison cell to the younger Baggaley, also in jail, warning him off speaking to the police for fears of being killed. The letters were produced and read in the court in March this year.

“Don’t talk to the police; these guys would kill us,” Draper said in one of the letters. “Let me try to talk to them and go from there.

“It’s now a month gone by since we were arrested, and I’m not handling jail very well, and I have to get out, by any means possible. I’m thinking about talking to the (Australian Federal Police) to get a discount on sentencing. I know you were tricked, and you didn’t know it was coke we were picking up, and I feel for you a lot. I’m sorry I tricked you; I had no choice; the people told me I couldn’t tell you it wasn’t tobacco. I want to fix this up and tell the cops the truth; you thought it was tobacco,”

The argument that his Olympic silver medalist brother’s role was comparatively minimal as he simply aided his sibling wasn’t bought by Lyons either.

Instead, she found Nathan Baggaley was “actively involved in the attempted importation of cocaine” and was to receive a substantial reward for his services.

The trial heard the 45-year-old bought the rigid-hulled inflatable boat, a trailer, and equipment like a Global Positioning System and satellite phone, all worth more than AU$100,000 ($73.74 million).

“I find that Nathan Baggaley knew the importation of cocaine involved a large quantity and was actively standing by to receive that cargo and to facilitate the movement of that cargo as a principal,” Lyons said.

She will sentence Dru Baggaley on the basis he was “a principal organizer of the attempted importation of the cocaine,” knew a large number of drugs was involved, and recruited Draper to go to sea with him.

Justice Lyons found evidence that established Nathan Baggaley knew of the voyage by the day the men went to sea and that “it was to retrieve a large quantity” of cocaine.

Draper—who testified during the Baggaley brothers’ trial as part of an undertaking —was sentenced to 13 years behind bars after pleading guilty to the same drug importation charge during earlier proceedings.

Nathan Baggaley’s career unraveled in 2005 when he was banned for taking steroids.

The brothers were jailed in 2009 for manufacturing and supplying large numbers of ecstasy tablets and again in 2015 for producing party pills and conspiring to make methamphetamine.

Edited by Saptak Datta and Krishna Kakani

Recommended from our partners