Five convicted of trying to import £112m of drugs

21 March 2019, 16:33 | Updated: 22 March 2019, 10:25

Five men have been convicted of trying to import 1.4 tonnes of cocaine, with a street value of £112m, which was hidden in a 60ft sailing yacht heading for the UK.

UK nationals Nigel Clark, 64 and Dean Waters, 59, have been found guilty at Bristol Crown Court, along with Raymond Dijkstra, 27, from Holland.

Two other men, Estonian Richard Must, 49, and Latvian Voldermars Gailis, 21, pleaded guilty to all charges at an earlier hearing.

The SY Nomad was intercepted in August 2018 as it was sailing towards the UK having left Suriname, just south of Venezuela.

The yacht was escorted into Newlyn Harbour in Cornwall and the three men on board - Must, Gailis and Dijkstra -were arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking offences.

All five men were charged with conspiring to import cocaine and conspiring to conceal cocaine within a ship and remanded in custody.

Newlyn arrests

NCA Senior Investigating Officer Ty Surgeon said: ''This is another fantastic example of law enforcement and partner agencies working together, sharing intelligence and conducting operational activity to stop the importation of a huge amount of cocaine into the UK.

''The main instigators Clark and Waters - both of whom have previous convictions for drug trafficking offences, knew exactly what they were doing and had planned every part of the drug smuggling attempt.

''This case should act as a deterrence to anyone who thinks they can import or 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.

''This was a highly profitable commodity with an estimated street value of £112million. 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 and 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.''

The men have been remanded in custody until sentencing which will be on Tuesday 26 March at Bristol Crown Court.