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Olympian’s brother says the pair were tricked into joining a $200m cocaine racket

The brother of Olympic kayaker Nathan Baggaley claims he was tricked into attempting to import $200 million worth of cocaine and should be released pending his appeal.

Mar 19, 2024, updated Mar 19, 2024
Olympian canoeist Nathan Baggaley has appealed his drug-smuggling conviction. (AAP Image/Nikki Short)

Olympian canoeist Nathan Baggaley has appealed his drug-smuggling conviction. (AAP Image/Nikki Short)

The Supreme Court in Brisbane on Monday heard a bail application by Dru Anthony Baggaley, who claims to have evidence he was told by others in the alleged smuggling plot that they would be handling illegal tobacco.

Dru Baggaley and his older brother, Olympic silver medallist Nathan Baggaley, were allegedly intercepted by the Navy in July 2018 after using a seven-metre inflatable boat to pick up 650 kilos of cocaine from a ship 360 kilometres off Australia’s east coast.

The brothers were found guilty by a Brisbane Supreme Court jury in April 2021 of attempting to import cocaine.

Nathan Baggaley was sentenced to 25 years behind bars, while Dru Baggaley was handed a 28-year jail term but had the verdict set aside on appeal in July 2023.

Nathan Baggaley has also appealed but the court has yet to publish its decision.

Defence barrister Saul Holt told the Supreme Court on Monday that his client should be granted bail ahead of a retrial as he now had evidence that reduced the strength of the prosecution’s case.

Mr Holt said a third man allegedly on board the inflatable boat had written letters to Dru Baggaley after the trio were arrested.

“I’m sorry I tricked you. I had no choice. I was told to say it was tobacco,” one of the letters to Dru Baggaley stated.

“These letters are exculpatory of Mr Baggaley. All a jury has to find is that the contents of letters could reasonably be possibly true,” Mr Holt said.

Justice Melanie Hindman told Mr Holt she would have to be convinced Baggaley was not a flight risk or that he would reoffend.

Crown prosecutor Patrick Wilson said Baggaley posed a heightened risk while on bail as he had been accused of possessing a variety of drugs and a mobile phone in custody.

Mr Holt said Baggaley had only been charged last week over alleged offences in January and he had yet to see a brief of evidence and assess the strength of that case.

Justice Hindman said she was also concerned Baggaley had proposed to live while on bail in northern NSW near where he had previously committed other offences.

“He has a criminal history, not like (attempted drug importation) but very serious drug-related offending including manufacture,” she said.

Mr Holt said Baggaley could wear a GPS bracelet, his family had offered a $500,000 surety for bail and that the chance of him fleeing the country was low.

Justice Hindman said Baggaley likely faced another decade behind bars if found guilty at retrial but his chance of getting bail “wasn’t hopeless”.

“He’d have to be high up in the cartel for them to collect him and take him to Colombia,” she said.

Justice Hindman adjourned the matter until Friday to give both parties more time to gather information.

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