Three men and an esky: WA Police hunting men in connection with massive cocaine haul

WA police have seized the state’s largest haul of drugs in recent times after 365 kilograms of cocaine was found stashed in an overturned boat off the coast of Esperance.

The boat was recovered by WA Police and Australian Border Force last week after three men were found floating off the coast of Albany, clinging to an esky.

The men were rescued after police and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority received an alert from an emergency beacon and were found floating in choppy waters. They had no serious injuries.

After telling police they were on a fishing expedition, further investigation allegedly found the massive haul of drugs on their boat and an arrest warrant has now been issued for the trio.

Superintendent Graeme Marshall from the Australian Federal Police said Mate Stipinovich, 49, Karl Whitburn, 45 and Aristides Avlonitis, 36, were alleged to have taken their fishing boat out off the coast from Albany to retrieve the drugs from another vessel before attempting to return to shore.

Marshall said the haul was clearly intended for interstate distribution and were estimated to have been worth around $137 million.

“This would be a big blow to a well resourced syndicate,” Marshall said.

Police are now appealing for help to find the men, two of which are believed to still be in WA, while Avlonitis is thought to have returned to the Northern Territory.

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