Cornwall

Man jailed for £130m cocaine yacht smuggle

Drugs seizure
Image caption UK Border Force officers intercepted the yacht in the western approach to the English Channel in July 2018

A man has been jailed for smuggling cocaine worth more than £130m into Europe on a yacht.

The boat's owner, Maarten Pieterse, 61, admitted the smuggling charges after the SY Marcia was intercepted in the English Channel last July.

It was then taken to the Cornish port of Newlyn and more than two tonnes of the Class A drug were found onboard.

Pieterse was sentenced to 16 years in prison at Bristol Crown Court.

The yacht had left Marina d'Angra, Terceira, in the Azores, on 9 July 2018, and National Crime Agency (NCA) officers believe the haul was destined for Belgium.

Its cargo of 1,161 blocks of cocaine in 93 packages was found in a hidden compartment.

Image copyright National Crime Agency
Image caption A total of 1,161 blocks of cocaine worth more than £130m were found onboard the SY Marcia

Judge Michael Longman said: "The clear inference is that you expected a huge financial profit from this venture.

"I don't doubt your involvement in this enterprise has been shocking to some of those who thought they knew you well."

Dominic Thomas, defending, told the court his client was once the owner of a "thriving and relatively high-profile jewellery business" - Het Juweel in Rotterdam.

He said Pieterse had been subject to "difficult and lengthy divorce proceedings" from his ex-wife and co-owner of their business, and had more recently been caring for his librarian girlfriend while she fought cancer.

When the haul was discovered, Andy Quinn, of the National Crime Agency, said: "This is a huge haul of class A drugs, one of the largest seizures of Class A ever in the UK, and with a potential street value likely to be in the hundreds of millions."

It took a team of Border Force search specialists two days to remove the packages from the boat, NCA said.

In June this year, a second man onboard, Emile Schoemaker, was cleared of all charges relating to carrying or concealing a controlled drug on a ship.

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