Inside the wild and mysterious life of daredevil diver before he was found dead in a murky NSW harbour surrounded by bricks of cocaine
- Bruno Borges was found dead near massive cocaine haul in Newcastle port
- The professional diver is believed to have been hired by the smugglers
- Superyacht tour operator James Blee has been arrested over the discovery
- Detectives will allege he organised the $20million cocaine importation
- Borges was an adrenaline junkie who loved surfing, diving and abseiling
- A Brazilian man and a woman are also being sought by police in the case
A Brazilian diver pulled from the freezing waters of an Australian port in a cocaine smuggling operation gone wrong was a super-fit adrenaline junkie who had circled the globe.
Bruno Borges, 31, grew up the son of fisherman in a small coastal village before he moved to the city of Santos, the largest port in Latin America, where he found work as a diver conducting underwater repairs on vessels.
Borges was found dead in the murky waters of Newcastle Port last month, two hours north of Sydney, surrounded by bricks of cocaine, wrapped in yellow plastic.
The discovery foiled an attempt from the cartels to get the $20million drug shipment, stowed in the hull of a cargo ship, into NSW.
Bruno Borges (pictured) ran an abseiling business in addition to working as a repair diver on cargo ships in the huge port city of Santos in South America
Bruno Borges, 31, was found dead near a cocaine shipment and is believed to have been hired as a diver (pictured)
Borges had worked all over Brazil after he left his childhood home of São Mateus in Espirito Santo in the country’s south-east.
He worked briefly in the United States, before settling in Santos to work on the ships.
He loved surfing and abseiling – even running his own rappelling business on the side called Rope Experience when he wasn’t on diving work.
His work in professional diving circles in the city led him to meet fellow diver Johni Fernandes Da Silva and the pair became friends and would work on jobs together, The Australian reported.
In February 2020, Borges shared a photo of himself and Da Silva holidaying on a sailboat with friends off an island near the tourist hotspot of Rio de Janeiro.
It’s also likely at the extremely busy port – which connects the South American city to 125 other countries – that Borges could have started his first under-the-table dealings.
Many divers would accept work with few questions, one source told The Australian, and one of those jobs could have drawn Borges into world of drug smuggling that would lead to his death 15,000km away.
Borges was found dead at the port of Newcastle on May 9, near packages of cocaine valued at $20million
Police believe up to 300kg of cocaine was smuggled in the sea chest of the Argentinean vessel Areti. Gr (pictured)
Borges’ friends and family describe him as kind and gentle and were shocked he could be involved in the illegal smuggling – telling them he was going on a mountain climbing holiday.
‘His mother asked for help to bring his body to Brazil and in two days he got 80,000 Brazilian real ($22,850),’ relative Raphael Munoz said.
‘If he was a bad guy he wouldn’t get help from anyone.’
Borges had been using a rebreather in the water, a highly specialised piece of equipment which recycles air by scrubbing carbon dioxide in a chemical process.
The tool is used by elite military divers such as Navy SEALS and allows a person to remain underwater for up to eight hours while emitting no detectable bubbles on the surface.
The rebreathers are difficult to use, with less than one per cent of scuba divers trained in how to use them, with a rebreather expert telling the newspaper his death was likely linked to his inadequate training with the apparatus.
To travel to Australia, Borges, who had never been further abroad than the US, had flown from South America to Qatar and then on to Indonesia.
From here he boarded a boat and sailed to Darwin before eventually reaching Newcastle.
Police allege that on board the boat to Darwin was colourful Cairns-based superyacht tour operator James ‘Jimmy’ Blake Blee, 62.
The Australian superyacht businessman James Blee was arrested after he tried to leave the country two days after the smuggling operation went wrong
He is the only person yet to be charged over the alleged smuggling and was extradited to NSW from Cairns in May.
Police allege Mr Blee attempted to board a flight from the North Queensland city to Singapore but he was stopped at the airport – only two days after the alleged drug smuggling operation went tragically wrong.
Mr Blee allegedly had a one-way ticket and was carrying $US17,000 in cash and a further $12,000 in Australian money.
He has been charged with importing large commercial quantities of a border controlled drug and a large commercial drug supply, and told reporters at the airport he ‘regretted the situation I am in’.
Police also allege he was spotted with Borges at a wetsuit outlet outside of Newcastle in the days before the drug find.
Jhoni Fernandes Da Silva ,32, (left) is wanted by the Organised Crime Squad in relation to a warrant. Borges (right) met Da Silva in professional diving circles
While police discovered 54kg of drugs in the hull of the cargo ship Areti Gr near where Borges was found, they also later found a discarded second bag upriver, believed to have held another 54kg.
In a bizarre twist, police in Indonesia found 180kg of cocaine floating in the water off Java – worth $118 million – in the same week police made the Newcastle discovery.
Both Brazilian and Australian police allege the cocaine found in Indonesia is linked to the Newcastle shipment.
It is believed the four parcels of cocaine – one of the largest single cocaine finds ever in Indonesia – was dumped in the water to be collected later by a different ship, a commonly used method.
A manhunt remains underway for Da Silva, who has been put on an Interpol Red Notice alert by NSW Police.
He was seen on CCTV along with a woman shortly after Borges was found by port workers and the huge cocaine consignment was seized.
Police last week made an appeal for information about two people seen on CCTV footage after a diver who died trying to recover 54kg of cocaine from a ship’s hull in Newcastle
Da Silva 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.
Detectives said the pair may have been in Newcastle between May 1 and 11, and warned the man is allegedly dangerous.
It is 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.
Da Silva’s brother Jonas is back in Brazil and said it was not in his character to be involved in anything illegal.
‘I am absolutely sure the Australian police are very wrong about my brother.. the police commander said he is dangerous and for the population not to approach him; I don’t know if I cried or laughed at this nonsense,’ he said.
How the dive tragedy unfolded and the drug haul was revealed