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Pilot called Biggles smuggled £33.5m of cocaine into UK, Old Bailey hears

Published 08/02/2016

The Old Bailey has heard details of a multi-million pound cocaine smuggling ring
The Old Bailey has heard details of a multi-million pound cocaine smuggling ring

A pilot nicknamed Biggles was at the centre of a plot to smuggle £33.5 million worth of cocaine into Britain from Germany in his light aircraft, a court heard.

Andrew Wright, who took his name from the fictional aviator and adventurer, imported some 268 kilos (591lbs) of the Class A drug in eight trips from Breighton Airfield in Selby, East Yorkshire, to Germany and back over three months in the autumn of 2014.

The licensed pilot, who owned two Cessna planes, used his aerial photography business Skyviews R Us Ltd as a cover for his illegal activities, prosecutor Danny Robinson told the Old Bailey.

His co-conspirator Jamie Williams would travel to mainland Europe to get the drugs from Holland then drive to Kassell airport in Hesse, Germany, to load them onto the plane before returning to the UK overland.

Once back in Britain, Williams, 38, would travel to Selby to collect the drugs from Wright and deliver them to the head of the operation, Mark Dowling, in Essex.

The drug smuggling ring was smashed on November 17 2014 after Wright touched down in Selby with his latest consignment.

A border control officer searched his Porsche Cayenne 4x4 and discovered four bricks of cocaine in the boot with a further 30 blocks stashed in bags in the tail section of his plane.

In all, the cocaine had a total street value of £4.25 million, the court heard.

Mr Robinson said Dowling, 43, was in charge while Williams was his "trusted lieutenant" and Wright, of Toad Hall, Selby, North Yorkshire, was the pilot.

When Dowling's house in Surman Crescent, Brentwood, Essex, was searched, police recovered documentation indicating the scale of the operation.

In a very short space of time, large sums of money were generated and at one point the plotters had nearly £2 million at their disposal, the court heard.

Dowling paid Williams a flat rate of £12,000 plus expenses for his involvement while Wright, 52, received £1,500 per kilo imported, the court heard.

The court also heard the gang used several literary references as well the famed boyhood hero "Biggles" by W. E. Johns. Other names bandied around included Ginger - his companion - and Skippy.

Wright's address of Toad Hall is a nod to another children's classic. Toad of Toad Hall was a play by AA Milne, the first of several dramatisations of Kenneth Grahame's 1908 novel The Wind in the Willows.

Williams, of Romford, Havering, Dowling and Wright have previously pleaded guilty to their part in the drug smuggling plot between September 1 and 18 November 2014 and are expected to be sentenced at the Old Bailey tomorrow.

Williams will also be sentenced for separate drugs, firearms and money laundering offences relating to January 2015.

Dowling has admitted separate offences of transferring criminal property, possessing criminal property and cannabis and cocaine supply.

A fourth defendant, David Rowe, 57, of Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, will be sentenced alongside them for the possession of cannabis with intent to supply.

The court was told the charges were the result of three separate police operations.

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