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Pair admit drug smuggling charges

Published 26/06/2015

Members of the navy standing behind cocaine which was taken from the yacht Makayabella
Members of the navy standing behind cocaine which was taken from the yacht Makayabella

Two men charged in connection with an international drugs bust off the coast of Ireland have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine.

The luxury yacht Makayabella was intercepted in September last year after crossing the Atlantic.

David Webster, 44, of Rillmead, Otley, West Yorkshire, and Philip McElhone, 29, of Freemantle Place, Halton Moor, Leeds, both appeared via video link at Leeds Crown Court in England.

They both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import Class A drugs between March 1 2014 and September 29 2014.

The two men have been remanded in custody until sentencing in September.

It is believed the drugs, which came from Venezuela, would have had a street value in excess of 225 million euro.

The Makayabella was intercepted in poor condition by authorities in the Atlantic Ocean, 200 miles off the south-west coast, while investigators also seized a 25ft motor boat called Sea Breeze, moored in Pwllheli, north Wales.

Judge Guy Kearl QC said: "Mr McElhone and Mr Webster, you pleaded guilty to these matters. I'm going to adjourn sentencing. In the meantime each of you will be remanded in custody."

A woman had denied her part in the drugs bust.

Dawne Powell, 56, of Netherfield Road, Guiseley, Leeds, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to import Class A drugs, namely cocaine, and not guilty to money laundering.

The luxury yacht Makayabella was intercepted in September last year after crossing the Atlantic.

It is believed the drugs, which came from Venezuela, would have had a street value in excess of £160 million.

Today Powell appeared via video link from HMP New Hall Women's Prison at Leeds Crown Court to deny the charges.

Both charges were said to have taken place between March 1 2014 and September 29 2014.

She will stand trial on September 14.

It is expected to last around three days.

Judge Guy Kearl QC said: "The trial will take place on September 14. In the meantime you will be remanded in custody."

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