Drug Smugglers Jailed For 42 Years

Two Polish men caught smuggling almost half a tonne of cocaine on a yacht sailing near the Isle of Wight have been jailed for a total of 42 years.

Tomasz Konrad Dylik and Piotr Ryszard Pachnia were arrested in June 2012 after their vessel, Baila, was intercepted by Border Force officers on board HM Cutter Valiant.

Dylik pleaded guilty to drugs smuggling charges at Winchester Crown Court on 21st September. Pachnia was convicted by a jury at the same court on Wednesday 23rd January following a three-day trial.

Dylik, 48, of Lask Warszawska, was sentenced to 18 and a half years while Pachnia, 33, of Rzeczypospolitej, Gdansk, was sentenced to 24 years at the same court today.

The court heard that the Polish registered yacht was intercepted by HMC Valiant around 10.5 miles south of St Catherine's Point on 9 June. It had been followed from the UK's south west approaches.

Officers boarded the vessel and questioned both men, who initially said they had sailed around the Mediterranean. But suspicions were raised when swab samples gave high readings for heroin and food items from South America and the Caribbean were found. When re-questioned Dylik said their last port of call was the Dominican Republic.

Following the interception Border Force officers instructed the pair to sail the yacht into calmer waters at HM Naval Base Portsmouth so that a proper search could be carried out.

The pair were then arrested on suspicion of importation of controlled drugs and cocaine was found inside two empty spaces behind the bulkhead of the starboard and port side cabins. The drugs had been taped into packages which had been distributed between three locked holdalls, bin liners, hessian sacks and into loose piles.

The cocaine weighed a total of 452 kilos and laboratory tests showed the drugs were 89.9 per cent pure. The average purity of cocaine seized at the UK border is 63 per cent. If the drugs had reached the streets they would have been worth around £90.4 million.

During interview Dylik confirmed the yacht belonged to him and that the trip started from Poland in September 2011.

Dylik said he had met Pachnia via an internet social network 10 months previously when looking for a sailing partner. Pacnia's account of the route and internet advert was very similar to Dylik's but neither could explain why the drugs were on the boat or how they got there.

Tim Fleming, from Border Force, said:

"This was a significant seizure and the sentences given to Pachnia and Dylik should serve as a stark warning to anyone who attempts to smuggle Class A drugs at the border or within British territorial waters. We will catch you and you will face a long time in jail.

"Our officers are on constant alert to keep drugs and other prohibited items out of the country and we are determined to do all we can to stamp out this evil trade."

Border Force's five fast patrol vessels, known as Cutters, patrol the UK's 11,000 miles of coastline every day of the year to detect prohibited and restricted goods and prevent tax fraud by searching all types of vessels.

Each vessel can accommodate up to 16 persons and remain at sea for extended periods and in heavy weather conditions. The crew are all highly trained for the maritime enforcement role they undertake.

Anyone who has information on suspected smuggling or immigration offences can visit http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/aboutus/contact/report-crime/ or call the Border Force hotline on 0800 59 5000.