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Cocaine yacht skipper ‘wanted deniability’

Craig Lembke

Craig LembkeCredit:Newcastle Herald

Despite pleading guilty and being jailed over the importation, the witness initially said he didn’t recall the conversation with Lembke when questioned on Thursday but was then shown a copy of his police interview.

Asked what Lembke had said, he eventually replied: “He’d do it if he had deniability if there was anything untoward about it”.

Lembke, 49, of Mayfield East, and co-accused West Australian Daniel Percy, 36, have pleaded not guilty to importing a commercial quantity of cocaine.

Lembke claims he didn’t know the drugs were hidden in the twin hulls of the 13-metre Skarabej as does Percy, who is accused of organising the boat.

The pure quantity of cocaine in the 700kg of seized white powder was 547.71kgs.

Lembke’s barrister Peter Krisenthal has urged the jury to be careful about accepting the organiser’s evidence.

He said he had agreed to testify after doing a deal to have years cut off his jail term and should be viewed with circumspection.

Lembke set off with his friend, David Mitchell, who had started up a yacht delivery company, from Tahiti on October 17, 2017 to sail the Scarabej to NSW.

It was the first time the pair had undertaken such a journey and Mr Mitchell wanted to make sure they weren’t carrying anything illegal so he swam underneath the vessel to check when they stopped at Bora Bora.


Mr Mitchell claimed there was no way to know the drugs were aboard.

The pair arrived at Lake Macquarie on November 14 before mooring near the Toronto Royal Motor Yacht Club.

Police were monitoring the Scarabej when Lembke allegedly transferred a drug syndicate member out to the catamaran on November 15.

Lembke returned to shore while the syndicate member allegedly began using power tools to cut through the hull to access the drugs.

The trial before Judge Jonathon Priestley continues on Friday.


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