Leeds & West Yorkshire

Man, 70, jailed for skippering £200m cocaine plot yacht

The Irish naval vessel - the LÉ Niamh, sails alongside the detained yacht Makayabella Image copyright Irish Defence Forces
Image caption The Irish navy intercepted the yacht Makayabella after it was tracked from Venezuela

A 70-year-old man who skippered a yacht across the Atlantic in a calamity-riddled £200m cocaine smuggling operation has been jailed for 10 years.

John Powell, of Silsden, West Yorkshire, admitted two charges ahead of a trial in the Republic of Ireland.

Benjamin Mellor, 35, of Bradford, and Thomas Britteon, 28, of Grimsby, were each jailed for eight years.

All three men were charged by Irish authorities with drug trafficking and the importation of drugs.

They were arrested on board the luxury yacht Makayabella on the night of 22 September.

The boat was found in poor condition 200 miles (322km) off the south-west coast of Ireland.

Investigators in the UK also seized a 25ft (7.6m) motor boat called Sea Breeze, moored in Pwllheli, North Wales, in connection with the smuggling ring.

'Major player'

In December, Powell's son Stephen Powell, 48, from Guiseley, West Yorkshire, was jailed for 16 years for conspiring to import cocaine after more than a tonne of the drug was seized on the boat.

Cork Circuit Court heard Stephen Powell was a "major player" in the UK drugs underworld and the "main man by a step and a half" behind the operation.

His father flew to the Caribbean in March 2013 to inspect the yacht, which his son had bought for the smuggling venture, and then to provide a cover story sailed it for a year as a charter boat, working with Mellor for most of the year.

They picked up the drugs in Venezuela on 4 August 2014, the court heard.

But the sentencing hearing depicted an error-strewn voyage from Venezuela towards the UK, which attracted the attention of the US, France, UK and Ireland.

Mellor, a drug addict and alcoholic, broke his wrist en route and started taking some of his own cocaine supply to fend off hunger pangs, six days after the crew ran out of food.

Drinking water was also running out when the yacht was stormed by the Irish Navy.

All three admitted immediately there was cocaine on board and were taken back to Ireland, where they were arrested as soon as they reached shore on 25 September.

Insp Fergal Foley, a Garda investigator, said the vessel was in a grim state.

"To be quite blunt, they were delighted to see the navy," he said.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites