A GANG has been jailed for a total of 20 years after being caught trying to smuggle drugs into Southampton.
Border Force officers found cocaine worth £300m hidden inside a pleasure cruiser at the city’s docks last June. Weighing in at 1,000 kilograms, the haul was one of the UK’s largest ever cocaine seizures.
The gang members, including a father and son, were traced and arrested at addresses across The Netherlands in August 2011.
Yesterday three men, all Dutch nationals, were convicted and sentenced following a two-day trial in Rotterdam earlier this month.
All the defendants were charged with attempting to smuggle cocaine. A 61-year-old was sentenced to seven years. He was also charged with laundering €40,000 in The Netherlands and laundering €60,678 in Belgium and Luxemburg. One of his sons, aged 33, was sentenced to five years and also charged with possession of a firearm.
A 45-year-old man was sentenced to eight years and also charged with laundering nearly €1.5m in the Netherlands and possession of a machine gun.
A fourth man, the 61-year-old’s other son, aged 35, was acquitted.
The £1m Dutch owned luxury yacht the Louise was targeted by Border Force as it was transported to Southampton aboard a cargo ship from the British Virgin Islands.
A painstaking forensic search of the entire yacht to locate the drugs bore fruit on the sixth day when the cocaine was found hidden deep beneath the bathing platform at the back of the boat, having been packed inside this specially prepared space while in Venezuela.
Border Force director general Brian Moore said: “Let the sentences handed down serve as a warning to those who attempt to smuggle illegal drugs and other contrabands, you will be caught and face a lengthy time in jail.”
The yacht has been confiscated and will now be used as a training tool for specialist Border Force search officers.