Five men involved in a plot to bring cocaine worth £112 million to the UK from South America in a yacht have been jailed for a total of 120 years.
UK nationals Nigel Clark, 64, and Dean Waters, 59, who were living in Estepona, Spain, Raymond Dijkstra, 27, from Holland, Estonian Richard Must, 49 and 21 year-old Latvian Voldermars Gailis received sentences ranging between 16 and 30 years imprisonment.
All five men were convicted of trying to import 1.4 tonnes of cocaine, which was hidden in a 60ft sailing yacht heading for the UK.
Clark, Waters and Dijkstra were found guilty at Bristol Crown Court last week following a five week trial. Must and Gailis pleaded guilty to all charges at an earlier hearing.
At the sentencing today (Tuesday 26 March), His Honour Judge Picton said the plot to bring in the 1.4 tonnes of cocaine was an "importation of the highest order" (that would have come into the UK) and "which would have resulted in appalling social harm".
As part of a National Crime Agency-led operation, SY Nomad was intercepted by the Border Force cutter Vigilant off the south coast of Cornwall on 29 August last year, having travelled from Suriname in South America.
The operation was also supported by Devon and Cornwall Police, the Maritime Analysis & Operations Centre (Narcotics) MAOC(N), the Irish Navy and the Irish Air Corps.
The yacht was escorted into Newlyn Harbour, where officers from the NCA and the Border Force Deep Rummage team boarded the vessel and searches began. They discovered more than 1,400 kilo blocks of cocaine hidden inside locked storage containers.
The three men on board – Must, Gailis and Dijkstra – were arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking offences.
The estimated wholesale value of the cocaine was £44,896,000, with an approximate street value once cut and adulterated of £112 million.
Nigel Clark and Dean Waters were arrested later that day by NCA officers who had been carrying out surveillance on them before the yacht’s arrival.
Waters had previously purchased a RHIB – Brenda’s Pet – which he arranged to be transported from Spain to Bristol and onwards to Southampton.
On the 28 August, Waters towed the RHIB towards Cornwall, meeting up with Clark in Launceston before they all travelled in convoy to Hayle.
The following day Clark was observed in Hayle, waiting with the RHIB. Waters had purchased a GPS device, thermal cameras and other maritime equipment, including a repair kit for the RHIB and a solar charged portable inflator.
Officers believed the plan was for the RHIB to meet the SY Nomad at sea and transfer the drugs over for onward distribution to the UK.
After they were arrested, searches of vehicles owned by Clark and Waters resulted in the discovery of additional electronic devices. including encrypted mobile phones, the thermal camera and the GPS device Waters had purchased the previous day.
A significant quantity of cash and a registration document for the SY Nomad in Clark’s name was also found during the search.
NCA Senior Investigating Officer Ty Surgeon said:
“This was an audacious plan to bring cocaine worth £112 million to the UK by boat, and it was only thwarted through law enforcement and partner agencies working together, sharing intelligence and conducting operational activity to stop it.
“The main instigators Clark and Waters, both of whom have previous convictions for drug trafficking offences, are professional drug smugglers. They knew exactly what they were doing and had planned every part of the attempt.
“This case demonstrates our ability and ongoing determination to disrupt and prosecute the international criminal gangs attempting to smuggle drugs into the UK.”
NCA Deputy Director Matt Horne said:
“This intelligence-led investigation resulted in the seizure of a significant quantity of cocaine that would have made its way to towns and cities across the UK.
“Making a profit is the motive for organised criminals and this interdiction would have really hit them in the pocket – disrupting their activities and damaging their reputation at the same time.
“We know there are links between drug supply and violent crime. This seizure, along with the two tonnes recovered in similar circumstances at the same harbour in July last year, demonstrate the NCA’s role in helping to prevent that”.
Gordon Scarratt, Head of Border Force Maritime, said:
“The Border Force cutter’s interception of the yacht was a crucial intervention in this successful operation, leading to the search of the vessel, the discovery of a vast quantity of dangerous drugs and ultimately the men’s arrests. Our maritime crews play a key role in patrolling the UK’s coastline and intelligence sharing between law enforcement agencies ensures this is done to maximum effect.”