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Two men were stopped from escaping a small island in Australia with one tonne of illicit drugs after an angry seal got between them and freedom.
Western Australia Police confirmed they had arrested 34-year-old British national Graham Palmer and 51-year-old Frenchman Antoine Dicenta after finding them with 40 bags of cocaine, ecstasy and meth - thought to be worth around £553 million - stashed under seaweed.
The force had received information from the public about an 'apparently stricken yacht and the unusual movements of its crew' in the Abrolhos Islands.
WA Police Force Commissioner Chris Dawson said: "The fishing community of Geraldton played a significant role in this detection and seizure and maintained regular contact with police as this matter unfolded.
"These people have helped protect Western Australia's borders on this occasion and we are grateful for their efforts."
Palmer and Dicenta tried to flee when they heard planes overheard, in turn waking up a 'huge seal'.
Geraldton Volunteer Marine Rescue vice-commander Damien Healy told ABC radio: "When they got on the island, the guys made a run for their tender [drugs] and there was this big, huge seal asleep between them and the tender.
"They woke it up and it jumped up with its big chest out and bellowed at them.
"The guys basically had the choice of going through the seal or getting arrested - and they ended up choosing getting arrested."
Both men were charged with importation of a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, and appeared in Geraldton Magistrate's Court on 5 September, being remanded in custody before they're due to appear again on 20 September.
In an update on 12 September, Western Australia Police announced that three more men had been arrested in relation wo the incident.
The force said: "Police have arrested three more people as part of the investigation into the attempted importation of approximately one tonne of illicit drugs, which were located on Barton Island, in the Abrolhos Islands group about 60km west of Geraldton.
"The investigation has involved extensive liaison with international law enforcement partners."
Brad Royce, State Crime Command Assistant Commissioner, said authorities are continuing to find out more about who has been involved, and where the drugs came from.
"The sheer size and nature of this seizure clearly indicates the involvement of an established criminal network," Royce said.
"The arrests yesterday represent a significant development in the investigation. There is still a lot more work to be done and our efforts will continue as we work our way towards the more senior members of the criminal network."
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