Brothers sentenced to more than 20 years jail for drug smuggling plot

Olympian Nathan Baggaley has been jailed for his role in a bungled cocaine-smuggling plot.
Olympian Nathan Baggaley has been jailed for his role in a bungled cocaine-smuggling plot.

Seventeen years ago canoeist Nathan Baggaley stood on an Olympic podium winning two silver medals within just a few hours.

But on Tuesday the three-time world champion stood in a Brisbane court dock as he was sentenced to 25 years behind bars for his role in a bungled cocaine-smuggling plot.

Nathan Baggaley and his younger brother were each found guilty by a jury in April of attempting to import up to $200 million worth of cocaine into the country.

Brisbane Supreme Court Justice Ann Lyons sentenced Dru Baggaley, 39, to 28 years in jail.

Nathan Baggaley, 45, will have to serve 12 years in custody before he is eligible to apply for parole, while Dru Baggaley will be eligible to apply for parole after 16 years.

Justice Lyons said Nathan Baggaley had achieved great prominence in sport, but his career ended in 2005 when he tested positive for enhancing drugs.

"I accept that the ban and the consequent negative media attention had devastating personal effects on you," she told him in handing down the sentence.

"There is a significant issue in relation to high performance athletes at end of their careers irrespective of how that career comes to an end.

"It's clear that after a successful sporting career when it ends sportsmen who've achieved great prominence have great difficulty in adjusting to life outside that sporting arena."

She referred to a psychiatrist's report indicating his self-worth was enmeshed with sporting achievements and "that when you were banned you lost your income, career, reputation, friends and self-identity".

Dru Baggaley, 39, and a man he recruited, Anthony Draper, were arrested three years ago almost to the day after venturing more than 360 kilometres out to sea on a rigid-hulled inflatable boat to meet a foreign freighter carrying packages of cocaine.

The men retrieved bundles thrown off the ship but on their return flung them into the sea when pursued by an Australian navy vessel.

Bundles recovered at the time, together with those that washed ashore for months after, contained cocaine worth between $130 million and $200 million.

Justice Lyons found Nathan Baggaley was "actively involved in the attempted importation of cocaine" and was to receive a substantial reward for his services.

She said Dru Baggaley was involved for longer, to a greater degree and recruited Draper, but Nathan played an "essential role".

The former sports star bought the RHIB, a trailer and equipment like a GPS system and satellite phone, all worth more than $100,000.

Justice Lyons found evidence that established Nathan Baggaley knew of the voyage by the day before the men went to sea, that "it was to retrieve a large quantity" of cocaine and was standing by on the mainland to receive cargo.

Dru Baggaley was "a principal organiser of the attempted importation of the cocaine" and knew a large quantity of drugs were involved.

The court heard they could only have been motivated by greed to commit the "very serious offending".

Draper - a professional fisherman who testified during the Baggaley brothers' trial as part of an undertaking - was sentenced to 13 years' jail after pleading guilty to the same drug importation charge during earlier proceedings.

Nathan Baggaley's career unravelled the year after the Athens Olympics when he was banned for taking steroids.

The brothers were jailed in 2009 for manufacturing and supplying large numbers of ecstasy tablets, and again in 2015 for producing party pills and conspiring to make methamphetamine.

Those sentences and Dru Baggaley's time in custody until Tuesday's court proceedings have resulted in him spending 11-and-a-half years out of the last 14 behind bars.

Australian Associated Press