Cocaine seizure: Men jailed after 750kg haul found on boat

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Media captionThe court heard the drug was packed into every available storage space, including the fridge

Two men have been jailed for conspiracy to import cocaine after one of the largest hauls of the drug in UK history was found on board a boat.

About 750kg of cocaine was recovered from the boat in Pembrokeshire in August, Swansea Crown Court heard.

Gary Swift, 53, from Liverpool, was sentenced to 19-and-a-half years in prison. Scott Kilgour, 41, also from Liverpool, was jailed for 13-and-a-half years.

Both will serve half these sentences.

They will then be released on licence. Both men pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

The court heard the two men were caught "red handed" with 751kg of cocaine on board the vessel, which they sailed across the Atlantic.

Swift and Kilgour sailed from the Canary Islands in June 2019 to collect the Class A drug from Suriname, on the north-east coast of South America.

Paul Mitchell, prosecuting, said Swift conducted a "dummy run" across the Atlantic in another vessel called the Mistral in December 2017.

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Image caption Scott Kilgour (L) and Gary Swift (R) were arrested on board the yacht

That vessel got into difficulties off the Welsh coast and was towed into Fishguard harbour for repairs and this incident alerted authorities to Swift's activities.

Over a year later, in another boat, the SY Atrevido, Swift, along with Kilgour, sailed again from the European mainland to Suriname to collect the cocaine.

The boat was under surveillance and arrived in St Brides Bay on 25 August.

Border Force Officers intercepted the vessel on 27 August near Fishguard. They arrested the pair and towed the boat to the nearby harbour for inspection.

Image copyright NCA
Image caption The men were arrested on board the yacht about a mile off the Fishguard coast.

Swift told officers: "I'm the bad one here. I had to come clean. I'm glad it's over."

The court heard the drug was packed into every available storage space on board, including the fridge.

Judge Paul Thomas QC said the men "were both engaged in very high level criminal activity... you knew how high the stakes were and what the consequences would be".

"You took a gamble and lost. Now, you must pay the price," he added.

He said Swift was "the organiser" and "the driving force behind a complex operation" who had bought two boats.

Judge Thomas told Kilgour: "This enterprise wouldn't have worked without your assistance... the second boat was bought in your name."

Anthony Barraclough, defending, said Swift - who had been declared bankrupt - was "talked into" the drugs run across the Atlantic by a customer at the hotel he owned.

He added that Swift was "a bankrupt builder" at the time of the offence.

Mr Barraclough said Kilgour "didn't know the size of the enterprise".

The vessel was purchased by Kilgour in Majorca in December 2018.

Jayne Lloyd, National Crime Agency regional head of investigations, said that it was thanks to the work of the agency, Border Force officers and the Spanish national police that "two highly organised criminals are behind bars and that these drugs haven't made their way onto the streets".

She added: "Our investigation does not stop here; we are now going after their assets to strip them of their illicit wealth and make sure they don't profit from their crimes."

Following the hearing, the agency said three men aged 23, 31, 47, and a woman aged 30 who were arrested in Liverpool and Loughborough in connection with the seizure remain on bail.

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