Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight lobster pot drugs runners sentenced

Drugs gang
Image caption The gang planned to import £53m of cocaine into the UK

Five men have been jailed for attempting to import 255kg (560lb) of cocaine by disguising it among lobster pots off the Isle of Wight.

They planned to retrieve 11 watertight holdalls of high-purity cocaine, worth £53m, in May 2010, police said.

Fisherman Jamie Green was convicted of conspiracy to import cocaine along with Daniel Payne, Scott Birtwhistle, Jonathan Beere and Zoran Dresic.

The drugs had been deposited from container ship MSC Oriane.

The gang was caught following an extensive investigation which included surveillance and retrospective GPS plotting of the ships' movements.

'Meticulously-planned'

In the early hours of 30 May 2010, Green, Payne, Birtwhistle and Dresic took the fishing boat, Galwad-Y-Mor, to Freshwater Bay off the coast of the Isle of Wight, where it was tracked by UK Border Agency cutter HMC Vigilant, and observed manoeuvring erratically before heading back to Yarmouth.

Green, Payne, and Dresic, who produced fraudulent identification in the name of "Veljko Protic", were arrested later that day.

Image caption The holdalls had been attached to a buoy and a makeshift anchor

The following morning, officers from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and UK Border Agency recovered the drugs after a report from the local coastguard.

The holdalls had been tied along a rope so they resembled submerged lobster pots, with a buoy and a makeshift anchor tied to either end to allow the gang to recover the haul.

Officers later arrested Birtwhistle and Jonathan Beere, who was in regular telephone contact with Green during the drugs run.

SOCA's Chris Farrimond said: "These men believed their meticulously-planned drugs run would look like a commercial fishing expedition.

"Rather than bringing them massive profits, however, their plan has put them in the same unenviable position as many others who have been caught attempting to traffic drugs under the guise of legitimate business."

The five were convicted at Kingston Crown Court in London. Jonathan Beere, 42 of Mayfield Road, Ryde, Isle of Wight, was sentenced to 24 years' imprisonment, as was Jamie Peter Green, 43, of Newport Rd Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, and Zoran Dresic, 36, from Croatia.

Daniel Payne, 36, of Albert Road, East Cowes, Isle of Wight, was sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment and Scott Peter Birtwhistle, 20, of Sparshot Road, Selsey, Chichester, West Sussex, received 14 years.