The Australian superyacht businessman arrested after a diver died retrieving $20million worth of cocaine laughed to reporters about being rejected from the show Survivor while issuing a bizarre apology.
The handcuffed James ‘Jimmy’ Blake Blee, 62, spoke to reporters as he was being extradited to New South Wales in a flight from Cairns Airport on Friday afternoon.
Blee was stopped from leaving the country on board a flight from Cairns to Singapore on Wednesday, two days after the alleged drug smuggling operation went tragically wrong.
Police will allege he had a one way ticket and was carrying $17,000 in US dollars cash and a further $12,000 Australian.
The dying diver was found floating in Newcastle harbour by port workers at 9.30am on Monday, surrounded by yellow parcels containing 54kg of cocaine.
The Australian superyacht businessman James Blee arrested after a diver died retrieving $20million worth of cocaine has issued a cryptic apology
Blee, who has been charged with importing large commercial quantities of a border controlled drug and a large commercial drug supply, told reporters he ‘regretted the situation I am in’
Blee, who has been charged with importing large commercial quantities of a border controlled drug and a large commercial drug supply, told reporters he ‘regretted the situation I am in’.
‘I’d like to apologise to my friends and family for the general situation I’ve put them in at the moment,’ Blee said.
‘The judicial process will show the end result and what’s going to happen, but that fact it got to this stage, I am very very sorry.
‘They are very serious charges and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to appear in NSW court to clear my name.’
Police are set to allege Blee was behind a large scale cocaine importation operation and that he was seen in the company of the deceased diver.
The dying diver was found floating in Newcastle harbour by port workers at 9.30am on Monday, surrounded by yellow parcels containing 54kg of cocaine
How the dive tragedy unfolded and the drug haul was revealed. Blee allegedly attempted to flee Australia
They alleged he was ‘buying sophisticated diving equipment like that found on the diver’ before the tragic incident in Newcastle.
Bizarrely, Blee was also seen laughing as he told a Channel 7 reporter he’d ‘tried three times to get onto Survivor’ but assumed he was rejected due to his age.
Blee who was carrying thousands of Australian and US dollars when police stopped him, was escorted by four NSW detectives and two Queensland police officers on Friday.
Police prosecutor Sophie Gorrick told Cairns Magistrates Court on Friday that Blee was arrested as he tried to board a plane to Singapore about 5.30pm on May 11 by Australian Federal Police and Queensland police.
Detectives believe a man and woman seen on CCTV footage may be able to assist with inquiries relating to case that also involved a diver who died trying to recover 54kg of cocaine from a ship’s hull in Newcastle
‘When he was arrested at Cairns Airport he was found be carrying A$12,100, US$17,608, Singapore $90 and $300 worth of rupees,’ Ms Gorrick told the court, the Cairns Post reported .
She added a search of his home uncovered ‘larger’ amounts, including some hidden in his children’s rooms.
Blee’s lawyer argued he should be granted bail as he was ‘a respected’ community member and still had family living in Cairns.
Bail was denied by Cairns magistrate Jacqui Payne.
Blee is due to appear in Parramatta court on Saturday.
The 62-year-old claimed to have piloted ‘luxury charter yachts for the world’s rich and famous’ and boasted of ‘starting off in the movie and TV business’, in which he claimed to be a producer.
Detectives wish to speak to the blonde or grey-haired woman and an olive-skinned South American man seen on camera
He recently founded North Queensland Superyacht Marine and Tours.
Earlier on Friday detectives said they believe a man and woman seen on CCTV footage may be able to assist with inquiries relating to the case.
They released images from security footage showing a woman in spectacles and a casually-dressed man.
Detectives investigating the case want to speak with a woman with blonde highlights carrying a green bag and a man believed to be of South American descent.
They were seen on CCTV shortly after the dead diver and the huge cocaine consignment was seized at 9.30am on Monday.
‘As investigations continue into the circumstances surrounding the death of the diver – who has yet to be formally identified – detectives believe the man and woman may be able to assist with inquiries,’ said a police spokesman.
‘The man is described as being of South American appearance, about 178cm tall and of an athletic build.
‘The woman is described as being of a thin build, about 150-160cm tall and has a tanned complexion with blonde/grey hair.’
Detective Superintendent Robert Critchlow said the pair may have been in Newcastle between May 1 and 11, and warned the man is allegedly dangerous.
He alleged they both entered the country illegally via ship.
Detectives launched an interstate taskforce, taking in NSW, Queensland and the Northern Territory, after the failed drug smuggling operation.
A diver – wearing sophisticated breathing gear which disguised his movements and hid any tell-tale trail of bubbles from his scuba gear – was found dying in the water.
He had been trying to recover a $20million drug haul hidden in a ship’s hull and was found surrounded by large floating bricks of cocaine wrapped in yellow plastic.
Police dive teams found a further 54kg of the drug in the underwater sea chest inside the hull of the Argentinean cargo ship which had arrived in Newcastle on Sunday evening.
Now detectives suspect it may be linked to a similar ‘spectacular’ cocaine discovery found floating in the ocean off Indonesia at the weekend.
Police are probing to see if there is a connection between the two after 179kg of the drug was discovered in the water near Java’s Merak port on Sunday.
The Indonesian haul – valued at $80million – was found in four black plastic blocks, floating in the ocean off the docks.
‘This is a spectacular seizure of cocaine considering its huge value and the impact on the people as a result of the illicit drugs,’ said Indonesian Navy Vice Admiral Ahmadi Heri Purwono.
Police stopped superyacht boss James Blee, 62, from leaving the country on board a flight from Cairns to Singapore on Wednesday
No-one has been arrested in connection with the discovery and local investigations are continuing, but it is understood Australian police have been in touch with their Indonesian counterparts.
‘The logistics of this operation were huge with many moving parts and we’re also looking at Indonesia and what may have happened there,’ added Det Supt Critchlow.
NSW detectives suspect 300kg was originally stashed in the haul in the hull of the Argentinean cargo ship which docked in Newcastle.
They believe 46kg was successfully removed in Australia before the tragic death of the drug mule diver, leaving 200kg still to be accounted for.