Two men have been jailed after they were caught smuggling cocaine with a street value of at least £60 million into the UK on a yacht.
Gary Swift, 53, and Scott Kilgour, 41, had been transporting 751 blocks of high-purity cocaine weighing one kilo each when their vessel was intercepted off the Welsh coast.
On Monday a judge told the pair they “took a massive gamble and lost” for what the National Crime Agency described as one of the biggest drugs busts in recent years.
The men had attempted to import the drugs from Suriname in South America into the UK when their sailing yacht, Sy Atrevido, was intercepted by Border Force cutter HMC Protector about half a mile (0.8km) off the Pembrokeshire coast in the early hours of August 27 last year.
The vessel was towed into Fishguard Harbour where Swift came clean to officers, telling them “It’s obvious I’m in a lot of trouble” before admitting there were 751 wrapped blocks of cocaine hidden in secret compartments on board.
Following the men’s arrest Craig Naylor, deputy director of investigations for the NCA, said he believed the drugs bust was their second biggest in recent history.
Swansea Crown Court heard on Monday the wholesale value of the cocaine was £24 million, but its street value was worth at least £60 million, with a potential for it to increase if the cocaine was cut down.
Prosecutor Paul Mitchell said: “The concentrations of the cocaine was between 69 and 83% purity, which is three or four times the usual street concentration.”
Mr Mitchell said Swift had played “the leading role” in the operation, while Kilgour had payed 50,000 euro for the yacht in December 2018 from a seller in Mallorca, Spain, before being tasked with putting together a crew.
Swift and Kilgour both pleaded guilty to importing Class A drugs.
Anthony Barraclough, defending both men, said the drugs bust was “quite unique” in that the pair were caught with such a large quantity “red-handed”.
He said Kilgour had not been aware of the “full size and nature” of the operation until on board, and described Swift as a “bankrupt builder” who had been talked into transporting the drugs for money by higher-ups to cover his debts.
But Judge Paul Thomas QC said he believed Swift had instead eyed gaining a “vast fortune” from transporting the “colossal quantity” of cocaine, which would have been spent on luxuries including a house with a swimming pool in Suriname he had discussed in messages.
The judge said: “You both knew how high the risks were and what the consequences would be if caught, and set that against the money you’d be making if successful.
“You both took a massive gamble and you lost.”
Swift was sentenced to 19 years and six months in jail, while Kilgour was sentenced to 13 years and six months.
Following the sentence the NCA said three men aged 23, 31, 47, and a woman aged 30 who were arrested in Liverpool and Loughborough in connection with the seizure remain on bail.
The SY Atrevido, as well as a second sailing yacht, the SY Mistral, believed to have also been used by the group who employed both men, have been seized, while investigators have also obtained court orders to restrain a third sailing yacht, caravans, five cars, two vans, and a house in France.
Jayne Lloyd, NCA regional head of investigations, said: “It’s thanks to the work of the NCA, Border Force officers, and the Spanish National Police, that two highly organised criminals are behind bars and that these drugs haven’t made their way onto the streets.
“Our investigation does not stop here; we are now going after their assets to strip them of their illicit wealth and make sure they don’t profit from their crimes.”