Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Three to be sentenced over bid to smuggle two tonnes of cocaine

Three men caught off the Irish coast with almost two tonnes of cocaine will be sentenced today for their roles in an elaborate international drugs smuggling ring.

Philip Doo and David Mufford, from Devon, and Christopher Wiggins, with an address in the Costa del Sol, face up to life in prison after admitting their roles in Ireland's largest drugs seizure.

They are due to appear before Cork Circuit Criminal Court, in the Irish Republic, today.

The record-breaking haul was recovered by elite navy teams on board a yacht as it struggled to stay afloat in the Atlantic Ocean last November.

The three men were dramatically arrested 170 miles off the south west coast of Ireland when a transatlantic drug trafficking scam was smashed about a month after the boat came to the attention of authorities in the Caribbean.

Loaded with 75 bales of cocaine, Dances With Waves was then pinpointed by the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) and tracked by Europe's anti-drug trafficking agency Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre - Narcotics (Maoc-N) before Irish officials moved in.

Doo, 52, from Rocklands House, Higher Manor Road, Brixham, Devon; his former brother-in-law Wiggins, 42, with an address at Mirador de Costalita, Estepona, Malaga, and Mufford, 44, of Clennon Lane, Torquay, have pleaded guilty to being on board a ship which was not registered in any country or territory and being in possession of cocaine worth more than 13,000 euro (£11,500) for sale or supply.

The three are facing anything from 10 years in prison to a maximum life sentence.

Tough anti-drug laws were introduced last year as part of amendments to the Criminal Justice Act as the Government sought harsher penalties for dealers and others involved in gangsterism.

Included in the crackdown was a mandatory 10 years in jail for any drug seizure worth more than 13,000 euro (£11,470).

Specialist naval teams swooped on the damaged 60ft ocean-going yacht, a McGregor sloop, in treacherous seas on November 5 under the remit Operation Seabight - headed by a Joint Task Force on Drugs Interdiction involving naval, customs and garda chiefs.

The crippled vessel was then sailed to Castletownbere, west Cork, under armed guard where the 75 plastic-wrapped bales which filled the yacht's hull were unloaded and handed over to customs officials.

At the time the seizure was hailed as the largest in the history of the Irish state.

Just 16 months earlier Irish authorities seized a previous record 1.5 tonnes of cocaine - valued at a record 440 million euro (£323 million) at the time - which was washed up after an elaborate smuggling scam was foiled in the same part of the country.

Three Englishmen jailed for a total of 85 years after being found guilty of smuggling the cocaine into the country are appealing against their sentence and conviction. A fourth British man, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

HOW RECORD BREAKING COCAINE SEIZURE UNFOLDED

Three British men will today be jailed for their roles in an international drug smuggling ring involving tonnes of cocaine seized from the yacht Dances With Waves.

Here is how the story unfolded:

October 2008

:: Laden with cocaine a 60ft yacht, Dances With Waves, leaves the Caribbean. The vessel is targeted after intelligence from the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca).

:: The boat, an ocean-going McGregor sloop formerly registered in Britain, is tracked from waters off Trinidad across the Atlantic by Europe's leading anti-drug trafficking network, the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre - Narcotics (Maoc-N).

October 25

:: Ireland's Joint Task Force on Drug Interdiction is put on standby and warned specialist units may be tasked for an operation off the south west coast which security sources describe as an interdiction.

November 1

:: As part of JTF senior navy commanders launch Operation Seabight and prepare to swoop on the yacht in potentially treacherous seas.

November 4

:: Captains on board navy ships LE Niamh and LE Roisin are individually briefed on the developing situation via secret radio signals but crews are not told anything.

:: As the vessel approaches Irish waters, an Air Corps Casa surveillance aircraft fixes the troubled yacht's co-ordinates.

:: Naval, custom and garda chiefs give instructions from the Haulbowline naval base in Cork to each captain.

November 5

:: At 10pm an elite team of Irish naval officers, on board inflatable Rhibs, swoop on the damaged yacht as it is battered by high seas about 170 miles off the west Cork coast. Three men on board give themselves up without a struggle.

November 6

:: The trio - Philip Doo, Christopher Wiggins, and David Mufford - are brought ashore on board the LE Niamh and re-arrested by gardai in west Cork.

:: Irish security and Government officials declare Operation Seabight a massive success, with initial estimates putting the drugs haul as worth more than 500 million euro.

November 7

:: Skilled naval yachtsmen sail the badly damaged Dances With Waves for more than 30 hours in storm force winds and fierce swells. It arrives at the busy fishing port of Castletownbere, west Co Cork, at 9.30am under armed guard.

:: The haul of cocaine, in 75 plastic-wrapped bales, is slowly unloaded and transferred to local garda stations under armed guard.

November 8

:: After two days of questioning, the three men are charged before a special night sitting of Clonakilty District Court, west Cork, with attempting to traffic the massive haul from South America.

:: Yacht transferred to Haulbowline for thorough forensic examination.

February 2009

:: The three co-accused make their first appearance before Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

April 2009

:: All three face up to life behind bars after admitting possession of the massive haul.

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