Two men who sailed a yacht carrying almost a tonne of cocaine with a street value of £120m across the Atlantic have been jailed at Maidstone crown court.
Hendrik Brugmans and Raymond Aalders pleaded guilty to importing class A drugs and were sentenced at to 20 years and nine months and 14 years respectively. Skipper Brugmans, 69, and Aalders, 47, both Dutch nationals, were arrested after the yacht, Golem, was intercepted off the coast of Rye, East Sussex, by a Border Force cutter on 31 August last year.
National Crime Agency (NCA) investigators found evidence that Brugmans was paid €1.2m (£936,000) for making the trip. At the time of its interception, the Golem’s navigation beacon was turned off and the yacht was listing noticeably. The 56ft yacht was escorted into Dover marina, where a search by specialist Border Force teams revealed hundreds of packages of drugs concealed in specially made hides in a workshop, water tank, and under benches.
In interviews with NCA officers, both men admitted sailing the vessel from Curaçao in the southern Caribbean. The boat’s destination was believed to have been the Netherlands. Forensic tests on the packages revealed the cocaine was 70% pure, and if adulterated and sold in the UK would have had a potential street value of about £120m, according to the NCA.
Matt Rivers, from the NCA’s border investigation team, said: “These two men were involved in an audacious plot to smuggle millions of pounds worth of high-purity class A drugs into Europe. Their reckless attempts to avoid detection by breaching sailing regulations could have had extremely dangerous consequences.
“It is believed the final destination of the boat was to be the Netherlands but given the sheer scale of this seizure, it is likely that a large amount of the drugs would have ended up being sold on the streets of the UK.”
The Guardian/June 3, 2016