Britain jails pilot for 19 years for smuggling cocaine from Germany

A British court jailed a light-aircraft pilot for 19 years on Tuesday after he was convicted of smuggling cocaine worth tens of millions of pounds on flights from Germany.

Andrew Wright, 52, was arrested in November 2014 with 34 kilograms of cocaine, with a street value of 4.25 million pounds (6.16 million dollars), packed in luggage on his plane and in the boot of a car parked next to it at Breighton Aerodrome in North Yorkshire.

Detectives found Wright, who owned two Cessna light aircraft, had flown to Breighton seven times in the previous three months from a private airfield near Kassel in central Germany.

Wright had used an aerial photography business as a front to import an estimated 268 kilograms of cocaine as part of a "highly sophisticated operation," said prosecution lawyer Adrian Flasher.

The police investigation of Wright led to the arrest of several members of a British drug-trafficking gang, resulting in a 23-year prison sentence on Tuesday for Jamie Williams, 38, who was also convicted of supplying drugs and possession of a firearm.

Mark Dowling, 43, based in the southern county of Essex, near London, was later arrested while handing over 19 kilograms of cannabis to a drug dealer in June.

Police found 12.5 kilograms of cocaine at Dowling's home, plus a ledger suggesting he had handled cocaine shipments totalling 250 kilograms from the Netherlands and listing payments made to Williams and Wright.

Dowling was sentenced to 24 years in prison on Tuesday.

"This crime group ran an organised operation, utilising the piloting skills of Andrew Wright to import large amounts of cocaine," said Mick Maloney, head of the National Crime Agency's regional investigation team.

"Wright's previous trips to and from Germany point to him being a professional courier, trusted by his fellow criminals with transporting their drugs," Maloney said.

British and German police had cooperated to "dismantle a significant criminal enterprise," he said.

Last update: Tue, 09/02/2016 - 20:08
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