Tourism

Globetrotting tour operator arrested following drug drop death

A superyacht tour operator who has been accused of playing a major role in an alleged $20 million cocaine smuggling operation was arrested at Cairns Airport on Wednesday for allegedly trying to flee to Singapore.

James Blake Blee, a 62-year-old self-described ‘captain’ and the operator at hand, has lived quite an interesting life: auditioning for Australian Survivor, appearing in an Indonesian TV commercial, and owning several businesses in Indonesia, according to the Daily Mail.

However, the ‘captain’ will appear in Cairns Magistrates Court after he was taken into custody for trying to flee the country, police will allege.

Blee is the co-founder and operator of North Queensland Marine & Tours, which describes itself as “a must contact for any Superyacht Owners” planning to explore Aussie or Asian waters.

NSW Police are seeking Blee’s extradition as investigations into a large shipment of cocaine arrived at the Port of Newcastle on the hull of a ship from Argentina on Sunday afternoon.

The quantity of cocaine, worth more than $20 million, was found after emergency services were called to investigate the washed-up body of a diver on the Hudson River, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Paramedics and passers-by attempted CPR on the man, but he died at the scene. The drugs were found nearby.

Police believe the diver’s death to be linked to the arrival of the cocaine, which investigators believe to be more than 50 kilograms.

Detective Superintendent Robert Critchlow said on Monday that investigations suggest two other men were involved in bringing the drugs to Australia.

“To put on a shipment of this scale is quite a complicated arrangement, and they are very, very professional,” he said.

Police don’t think Blee, whose website describes himself as a “maritime professional and dedicated marine conservationist with more than 30 years experience with luxury yachting throughout South East Asia,” was one of the drivers of the boat.

Blee’s website biography states that “with his 25 years of experience and contacts in Asia, Jimmy has a network that spreads far and wise [sic] throughout the region”.

After being arrested, Blee went to Cairns watch house and was charged with importing a large quantity of a border controlled drug and large commercial drug supply.



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