Cocaine importation syndicate co-ordinator Kent Anthony Jackson pleads guilty to importing $245 million worth of cocaine

HE was a veteran of the Newcastle music scene who led a double life as a co-ordinator for a major drug syndicate that imported 700 kilograms of cocaine into Lake Macquarie last year.

And on Wednesday, in Newcastle Local Court, 63-year-old Kent Anthony Jackson’s dramatic fall from grace was complete after he pleaded guilty to importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, which carries a maximum of life in jail, and dealing with the proceeds of crime worth more than $50,000. 

Jackson, who lived in Thailand and Newcastle and regularly travelled between the two, played a “vital co-ordination role” for the drug supply syndicate and was allegedly responsible for enlisting sailor and fellow musician Craig William Lembke to sail the cocaine-filled catamaran from Tahiti to Toronto. 

Jackson, who was represented by solicitor Brett Wiggins, will next appear in Newcastle District Court on August 16 to get a sentence date later in the year.

Mr Lembke, 48, of Mayfield East, has pleaded not guilty to importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug and will appear in Newcastle District Court next week to get a trial date sometime in the new year. Jackson’s Australian-based “right-hand” man, 69-year-old Dennis Malcolm Bath, was arrested aboard the 13-metre catamaran Skarabej while it was docked at Toronto on November 15, 2017.

Read more: The Hunter cocaine bust worth $245 million (November 16, 2017)

Inside the twin hulls of the vessel police found more than 700 kilograms of cocaine in what was by far the biggest drug bust in the Hunter’s history. 

It was Bath’s job to “deconstruct” the catamaran and carefully cut through the hull to remove the cocaine, which had a street value of $245 million. 

He has also pleaded guilty to importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug and will be sentenced in Newcastle District Court in November. 

According to Australian Federal Police investigators, the three men are members and “vital elements” of a transnational organised crime group that imports drugs into Australia. 

But it was Jackson who played the most significant role in the Newcastle arm of the syndicate. 

On September 15 last year, after landing in Sydney on a flight from Bangkok, Jackson told Bath: “We have a shipment that they're telling about. We have a boat, we just need to fly up and go and get it. We’ll make some plans tomorrow… some plans and results.”

Then, about two weeks later, Bath is alleged to have driven Jackson to Mr Lembke’s house. 

He was inside for about 20 minutes and when he returned, Jackson allegedly told Bath: “So, he’s in”.