Two foreign nationals who allegedly sailed across the Indian Ocean to WA with $1 billion worth of illegal drugs tried to make a getaway when police arrived to arrest them on a tiny island – but were thwarted by a bellowing seal.

French national Antoine Dicenta, 51, and British man Graham Palmer, 34, are accused of running their yacht aground on a reef off Geraldton then fleeing in a dinghy to Burton Island, where about one tonne of drugs were found half-covered in seaweed.

When local rescuers searched the stricken yacht, there were initially concerns the occupants of the boat were in trouble at sea, given a dinghy was missing.

As planes searched for them, a crayfisherman saw someone on the island ducking down to hide in bushes as the aircraft flew overhead.

Suspicions were aroused and police were deployed.

“When they got on the island, the guys made a run for their tender and there was this big, huge seal asleep between them and the tender,” Geraldton Volunteer Marine Rescue Service vice commander Damien Healy told ABC Radio on Monday.

“They woke it up and it jumped up with its big chest out and bellowed at them.


“The guys basically had the choice of going through the seal or getting arrested and they ended up choosing getting arrested.”