The Kiwi partner of a sailor caught up in the biggest cocaine haul in Australian history says he is innocent and is in shock.
Fiji-based Valentino Fries was one of two men on the Elakha when it was raided by authorities off the Australian coast last week.
Fries and the yacht's Kiwi 63-year-old owner and skipper Hamish Thompson were arrested and charged by Australian authorities after 1.4 tonnes of cocaine with a street value of $327 million were discovered on the vessel after a three-year investigation.
Today, Fries' partner, who wanted to be known only as Yvonne, said he had been caught up in a situation out of his control and she was committed to standing by him in this dark and confusing episode.
"I believe he's innocent. I'm sticking by him. I've realised how much I love him and how much other people love him," said Yvonne.
"It's totally shocking. All of his friends are very, very shocked."
The arrest and revelations of the massive drug bust were astounding "but we're dealing with it".
"I"ve spoken with him and he's fine. He's coping as best as he can. He's just a good, kind person and I do feel better having spoken to him.
"That's all I can say."
At his request she had not planned to travel to Australia in the short term but was being supported by Australian authorities while she stayed in Fiji, her home of the past two decades. The former Manawatu woman had been reassured by her partner and authorities he was in good care.
Yvonne said the pair knew little about the yacht's owner and skipper before embarking on the passage as first mate.
"This sort of thing happens to other people, not to us."
She was reluctant to go into specific details of the journey and what her Fijian-Swiss national partner expected to happen for fear of jeopardising his case.
Police allege the yacht, which left Tauranga last month, had met a "mothership" in the South Pacific where the men transferred dozens of black bales containing the illicit class A narcotic onto their boat.
It was then intercepted off the New South Wales coastline by authorities before the drugs could be offloaded.
Six men are now facing conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug. They face a maximum life sentence and a fine of $825,000 if found guilty.
Fries, an experienced international yachtsman, operates a sailing charter business in Fiji.