Saxophonist and sailor Craig Lembke has been found guilty by a Jury at the Newcastle District Court on Wednesday 23 October for the charge of importing a commercial quantity of cocaine.
The 49-year-old man from Western Australia has now been known as the ‘cocaine Casanova’ after discovering that he was in a relationship with a television presenter, Susie Elelman prior to his arrest.
Lembke was found guilty by a jury for importing the cocaine via sailing a catamaran containing over 500kg of the drug from Tahiti to New South Wales.
It is reported that he was to receive a reward of $500,000 for sailing the drugs over.
The Cocaine is said to be valued at around $245 million, which was placed in the twin hulls of the catamaran in 2017.
He maintained his innocence by pleading ‘not guilty’ to the charge, when the matter eventually proceeded to a trial at the Newcastle District Court in September. He had claimed to have no involvement in the offence.
His 36-year-old co-accused Daniel Percy, who was alleged to have arranged the catamaran for the shipment had claimed to have no knowledge that there were drugs on board, was found ‘not guilty’ by the jury.
The cocaine consisted of 700kg of white powder, containing 548kg of pure cocaine.
The Court heard evidence that encrypted mobile phones were used, in addition to the discovery of a paper in Lembke’s wallet containing word “ENCRO 123”, “Blackberries sux” said to be the code to have access to an encrypted phone for Lembke to use in order to get in touch with a drug syndicate.
In fact, an important prosecution witness was one of the shipment organisers who had pleaded guilty and sentenced to 19-years imprisonment.
This witness told the court that he attended Lembke’s house in September 2017 to propose he skipper the Catamaran. According to the witness’s evidence, Lembke agreed to sail the Catamaran with the drugs in it for a price of $500,000.
In contrast, another witness told the court that Lembke wasn’t and isn’t interested in material things, expressing shock about the thought that he imported drugs.
His case has been adjourned for sentence to 16 December at the Newcastle District Court.
If you have questions arising from this topic, our drug lawyers in Sydney are available for a chat on (02) 8606 2218.
Our Drug Lawyers from Sydney Outline the Maximum Penalties for Importing a Commercial Quantity of Drugs
The word ‘importing’ under the law here means the drug arriving in Australia from another country where it’s been delivered to a location therein, where it remains in Australia.
The penalties for importing a border-controlled drug in Australia depends on the weight of the drug.
For example, cocaine’s marketable quantity threshold is 250g, with a commercial quantity of 2kg or more.
Cocaine is considered under the law as a ‘border controlled drug’ reflected in clause 1 of schedule 2 of the Criminal Code Regulations 2019 (Cth).
The maximum penalty for importing a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs in Australia is life imprisonment and/or a $1,575,000 fine, according to section 307.1 Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).
The maximum penalty for importing a marketable quantity of border-controlled drugs in Australia is 25-years imprisonment and/or $1,050,000 fine, according to section 307.2.
The maximum penalty for importing any other quantity of border-controlled drug in Australia is 10-years imprisonment and/or $420,000 fine, according to section 307.3.
What the Prosecution Must Prove for a Charge of Importing Drugs in Australia
To be guilty of importing border-controlled drugs in Australia, the prosecution is required to prove beyond reasonable doubt the following elements of this offence:
- The accused imported a border-controlled drug.
- The accused intended to import it.
- The accused was aware that there was a significant or real chance that it was a border-controlled drug at the time.
- It was not justifiable for the accused in the circumstances to have taken the risk of importing it.
- The accused took the risk of importing it.
What are the Defences to a Charge of Importing Border-Controlled Drugs in Australia?
If a defence applies to a charge of importing drugs, an accused person will be acquitted of the charge with the charge being dismissed in court, or earlier if negotiated by an experienced criminal lawyer.
Some of the defences include the following:
- If the accused person was of the belief that there was a mere possibility that it is a border-controlled drug; or
- If there’s a reasonable possibility that the accused wasn’t aware it was a border-controlled drug.
- If the accused didn’t intend to import the drugs.
- Duress or necessity.
There are also heavy penalties for possessing imported border-controlled drugs in Australia.