Two jailed for £16m cocaine plot
Two Dutch men have been jailed for their parts in a "James Bond"-style plot to smuggle more than £16 million of cocaine into the UK.
Henri Van Doesburg, 68, and Arnold Van Milt, 49, were found guilty of plotting to remove 108kg (238lb) of the drug from a ship in Scotland using a Seabob vessel and other scuba diving equipment.
Van Doesburg's son Roderick Van Doesburg, 23, and grandson Darryl-Jay Van Doesburg, 22, were cleared of conspiring to import illegal drugs into the UK at Leeds Crown Court.
Judge James Spencer QC told the two convicted men they "played for high stakes" and lost.
The judge sentenced Van Doesburg to 20 years in jail for his part in the scheme. Van Milt was jailed for 16 years.
He said: "It seems to me, despite your mature years, the two of you were out to make money, the two of you played for high stakes and the two of you have lost."
The men were charged after customs officers found more than 50 packages of extremely high purity cocaine in the rudder space of the Cape Maria vessel at Hunterston, near Largs, Ayrshire, on May 9.
The enormous amount of the drug had a potential street value of around £16.2 million.
The four-week trial heard that Van Milt had scuba diving experience and planned to access the drugs in the ship from the outside.
The Seabob, dry suits and other scuba diving equipment were found in his car after his arrest.
Describing the underwater vessel to the jury, prosecutor Paul Mitchell said: "You might have seen them used by James Bond and James Bond's adversaries.
"It's the kind of thing you use if you need to travel underwater at high speed."
Van Milt and Van Doesburg travelled to Cleethorpes, North East Lincolnshire, a week and a half before the drugs were seized.
A ship named the Indian Friendship was moored nearby at the same time. This ship had previously had 148kg (326lb) of cocaine seized from it while it was in Rotterdam.
Van Milt left Cleethorpes the day after the Indian Friendship left the area and travelled to Scotland. Van Doesburg returned to the Netherlands.
Van Milt booked into a hotel near the mooring place of the Cape Maria and visited a diving school in Largs to inquire about hiring equipment.
On May 9, customs officers searched the Cape Maria and seized the cocaine.
Van Milt, along with Roderick Van Doesburg and Darryl-Jay Van Doesburg, were arrested in Seamill the same evening. Henri Van Doesburg was arrested in Aalsmeer, in the Netherlands, the next day.
Investigations carried out after the arrests revealed evidence about Van Milt's links to Columbia - where he had travelled on a number of occasions - and links between the defendants and the ships.
Mr Mitchell said Henri Van Doesburg booked three hotel rooms in Rotterdam in March at the same time as the Cape Maria was in the port. The party checked out of the hotel when the Cape Maria left.
Van Doesburg then booked in to a campsite in North Lincolnshire, where the Cape Maria had travelled from Rotterdam.
In April, Henri Van Doesburg booked another hotel room in Rotterdam when the Indian Friendship was at the port.
Searches had been made about the ships on computers belonging to Van Doesburg and a document about the Cape Maria was discovered on one of Van Milt's phones.
The jury took 10 hours 34 minutes to reach their verdicts.
They found Van Doesburg unanimously guilty and reached a majority guilty verdict for Van Milt.
The two men both had previous convictions for drugs-related offences.
Judge Spencer told the men: "Now you stand, the two of you, convicted of a very serious offence involving the agreement to import class A drugs into this country, into the UK. It was on a scale which can readily be said to be commercial for the quantity was well over 100kg with a potential street value of over £16 million."
He added: "The evidence, it seems to me, is clear that you Henri Van Doesburg and you Arnold Van Milt were involved in this scheme in a leading role because the two of you went to Columbia and no doubt there organised the sourcing and also the stowing of this material."
The two men showed no reaction as the verdicts were read out.
Roderick Van Doesburg covered his face with his hands as the jury foreman announced his not guilty verdict. He then put his hand on the shoulder of Darryl-Jay Van Doesburg as he waited for his verdict.
David Norris, National Crime Agency (NCA) branch commander, said: " The underwater scooter was like something out of a Bond movie. These criminals were going to use it to dive beneath the ship under the cover of darkness and recover the cocaine worth tens of millions of pounds.
"Van Doesburg and Van Milt provide a specialist drug retrieval service for organised crime groups, and we have linked them to other ships that have been intercepted carrying cocaine.
"Van Milt posed as a tourist while in Scotland and bought camping equipment as part of the cover story.
"By preventing them providing more of their services, the NCA and its partners have disrupted criminal activity beyond this one operation. There will be some very frustrated criminals out there today."
Sir Charles Montgomery, director-general of Border Force, said: " This was an excellent seizure that stopped millions of pounds worth of harmful drugs making their way on to the streets of this country."