Prestwich man guilty of cocaine smuggling charge
A man has been convicted of conspiring to smuggle £3.5m worth of cocaine into the UK in a light aircraft.
Fourteen kilogrammes of the drug were smuggled into Mona airfield on Anglesey in a private plane in July 2009.
The aircraft had flown in from northern France, and was owned by David Watson, 54, from Prestwich, Greater Manchester.
Watson was found guilty of conspiring to smuggle class A drugs after a seven-week trial at Liverpool Crown Court.
The court heard that Watson, a property developer and a pub landlord, conspired with others to smuggle the drug cache into the country by using his single-engine four-seater plane.
Co-accused Paul Roche, 55, from Prestwich, David Lloyd, 65, from Anglesey, and Richard McArthur, 45, from Carrickfergus, County Antrim, were all found not guilty of related charges.
The trial heard that the drugs were picked up in France by former soldier Mathew Lockwood, 29, from Prestwich, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to smuggle class A drugs at an earlier hearing.
Michael Cahillane, 45, of Stockport, has also admitted conspiracy to smuggle cocaine.
Michael Taylor, prosecuting, told the trial that when the smuggling took place Watson was in the United States, but that he "was in control of the operation".
When the plane touched down in France, Lockwood went to pick up the drugs from Mr McArthur, the court heard.
However, the jury accepted that Mr McArthur did not know the package contained cocaine.
When the plane landed back at Mona airfield it was searched by police and the cocaine was found.
Previously the court was told that Watson, who owns The Plough pub in Prestwich, had a "net worth" of £980,000.
The court was told he was a property developer who had built up a significant "property portfolio" over the last 30 years.
Speaking after the court hearing, Jim Jarvie, deputy director of the UK Border Agency's crime directorate, Jim Jarvie said: "This was clearly a significant smuggling operation, worth millions of pounds to the people involved.
"They clearly thought that arriving a small airfield would ensure they were able to by-pass law enforcement controls. This was not the case.
"The cocaine was destined for the north west of England. Together with the police, the UK Border Agency has made sure that a these drugs have not reached the streets and the key players brought to account."
A date is expected to be set on Friday for Watson's sentencing hearing.