A Dutch man has been jailed for 16 years for trafficking cocaine, with an estimated street value of £133m hidden on a yacht intercepted off the coast of Cornwall.
Yacht owner Maarten Peter Pieterse, aged 61, was arrested following an operation led by the National Crime Agency.
Pieterse pleaded guilty at a hearing last year and was sentenced today (Wednesday) at Bristol Crown Court.
On the 18 July 2018, acting on intelligence, the Border Force cutter HMC Vigilant intercepted the Dutch-registered SY Marcia approximately 120 miles south west of the Cornish coast.
It then escorted the 60-foot yacht into Newlyn harbour near Penzance, where a detailed search of the vessel began by officers. NCA and Border Force officers discovered 93 packages containing 1,661 individual blocks in a purpose-built concealment in the stern of the vessel. It took a team of Border Force search specialists two days to remove the packages.
At one point the search was halted following the discovery of a suspicious package in the bales of cocaine, but resumed after the all clear was given by a Royal Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.
In total, 2.1 tonnes of high purity cocaine was recovered, with an estimated wholesale value of £50m. If cut and sold on the street, the haul had an estimated value of £133m.
The yacht left Marina d'Angra, Terceira, in the Azores on the 9 July 2018, and NCA officers believe the haul was destined for Europe and the UK.
The operation also involved the UK’s National Maritime Intelligence Centre and the joint Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N) in Lisbon, working in co-operation with law enforcement partners in Portugal, France, the Netherlands, and was supported by Devon and Cornwall Constabulary.
Ty Surgeon, Operations Manager at the National Crime Agency, said:
“This huge haul of cocaine is one of the largest seizures of class A ever in the UK, with a potential street value of more than £130 million. “
Pieterse’s yacht had been specially adapted for the sole purpose of drug smuggling, and this seizure will have significantly disrupted the activities of organised crime groups.
“I have no doubt these drugs were destined for Europe and the UK, to be sold by drugs gangs who are also involved in intimidation, exploitation and violence.
“We know the criminal trade in drugs is driven by financial gain, and the loss of the profit that would have been made from this seizure will have a major impact on the crime groups involved.
“The NCA continues to provide a key role in tackling criminal networks supplying class A drugs into the UK, and our work with partners at home and abroad to tackle the supply chain is vital to this.”
Another crew member, Emile Adriaan Jeroen Schoemaker, aged 45, who was arrested alongside Pieterse at the time, was found not guilty by a jury in June this year.
27 November 2019