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Drug smuggling ship sent to the bottom

MARCH 22 -- A pair of 2,000-pound laser-guided bombs was used to destroy a North Korean freighter seized for smuggling heroin.

Four F-111 strike bombers with the Royal Australian Air Force in Queensland sank the 3,500-ton vessel Thursday morning more than 80 miles off JervisBay, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported. Fuel and oil were removed from the freighter, called the Pong Su, before the bombing.

The Pong Su was seized off New South Whales in April 2003 after it was spotted dropping a shipment of heroin, according to the report. Until its sinking, the Pong Su was held at SydneyHarbor — costing Australian taxpayers approximately $2,500 Australian dollars per day in fees, the report says.

“The Pong Su was used in an attempt to bring heroin into Australia and it will never be put to that use again,” attorney general Phillip Ruddock says in the report. “I’m sure all Australians will consider this an appropriate fate for such a vessel.”

Four Pong Su officers accused of aiding and abetting the drug shipment were acquitted earlier this month, the reports says. Four others involved in the crime pleaded guilty and two have been sent to jail.

Lawyers for the vessel owners, according to the report, say they are considering suing the Australian government for the ship’s seizure and for lost earnings.

— Jason Fell