Four jailed over yacht drugs haul
Four men have been jailed for trying to smuggle cannabis worth an estimated £9.8 million into Britain on board a luxury yacht.
Three-and-a-half tonnes of the drug were found hidden by investigators after they tracked the Dutch-registered vessel, MV Majestic, for 12 hours at sea.
It is believed to have set off from North Africa and came under the suspicion of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) when it was spotted off Falmouth, Cornwall.
The 56ft yacht was tailed by a UKBA patrol vessel for 100 nautical miles up the English Channel before being intercepted off the Isle of Wight and escorted into Newhaven Harbour, East Sussex, on July 24.
During a search of the £40,000 vessel, packages of cannabis were found stashed in two holding tanks accessed through deck hatches.
The haul represents the second largest cannabis seizure in the South East so far this year, said the UKBA.
Crew members Al Turner, 53, of Hargham Heath, Attleborough, Norfolk; Mark Timothy, 59, of Sandown Close, Clacton, Essex; and skipper Johna Bouma, 64, and Franciscus De Geus, 66, both from Amsterdam, pleaded guilty last month to one count each of possession of a controlled Class B drug on board a ship.
At Hove Crown Court Judge Anthony Scott-Gall jailed Turner, Timothy and Bouma to nine-and-a-half years each, and De Geus, who is suffering from terminal cancer, to five years.
All four embarked on the smuggling plan because they were in debt and were short of money, the court heard.
Following the case, Malcolm Bragg, assistant director from the UK Border Agency's criminal and financial investigation team, said: "This is an excellent example of how our efforts in securing the border stops drugs and other dangerous items from entering the UK - in this case before they even reached the British mainland."