Cocaine smugglers caught off Cornwall jailed over £80m haul

Michael McDermott, David Pleasants and Gerald Van de Kooij Image copyright National Crime Agency
Image caption Gerald Van de Kooij, Michael McDermott and David Pleasants were arrested off the coast of Cornwall

The skipper of a drug-filled fishing boat has been jailed for 16 years for attempting to smuggle almost a tonne of cocaine into the UK.

Michael McDermott, 68, from Waterford, Ireland, was found guilty last month.

His crewmates, David Pleasants, 57, from Grimsby, and Gerald Van de Kooij, 27, from Amersfoort, Netherlands, were sentenced to 14 years and 12 years respectively at Bristol Crown Court.

Their boat was intercepted and brought into Falmouth, Cornwall in August 2016.

Pleasants and Van de Kooij had previously pleaded guilty but the three were sentenced together.

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Their trawler, the Bianca, had cocaine weighing 939kg, with a street value of more than £80m, when it was seized by National Crime Agency (NCA) and Border Force officers on August 18 last year.

It was the biggest single seizure of cocaine in the country last year.

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Media captionThe skipper of a boat found smuggling almost a tonne of cocaine has been found guilty.

Thirty-eight bales of cocaine were found hidden under bags of sand and gravel in the boat's fish hold, in what is believed to be the third biggest-ever haul of the drug in British waters.

It is believed the drugs were taken on board from another boat off the southern coast of Ireland.

Image caption The trawler was escorted into Falmouth in August 2016

Speaking after McDermott's trial, Mark Harding, senior investigating officer from the NCA's border investigation team, said: "This was a huge quantity of cocaine, the biggest single seizure made in the UK in 2016.

"Michael McDermott used his specialist skills as a sailor to attempt to evade border controls. We provided solid evidence that led to his conviction and have taken out another means of transport used by organised criminals to bring drugs to Britain.

Image copyright National Crime Agency
Image caption The seizure was the biggest in British waters in 2016

"His was a crucial link in a chain that leads from cocaine manufacturers in South America to drug dealers in the UK.

"In stopping this consignment, we have prevented further criminality by the gangs who bring violence and exploitation to our streets."

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