A British court on Tuesday jailed the pilot of a light-aircraft for 19 years 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).
He hid the drugs in the luggage compartment of his aircraft and in the boot of a car parked next to it at Breighton Aerodrome in North Yorkshire.
Detectives found that 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 used aerial photography business as 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.
The investigation also resulted to 23-year prison sentence for Jamie Williams, 38, who was convicted of supplying drugs and possession of firearm.
Mark Dowling, 43, based in the southern county of Essex, near London, was also arrested while handing over 19 kilograms of cannabis to a drug dealer in June.
The police found 12.5 kilograms of cocaine at Dowling’s home and a ledger which suggested he had handled cocaine shipments totalling 250 kilograms from the Netherlands.
The ledger also listed payments made to Williams and Wright.
Dowling was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Mick Maloney, head, National Crime Agency’s regional investigation team said that the crime group ran an organised operation utilising the piloting skills of Andrew Wright to import large amount of cocaine.
“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.
He attributed the success of the operation that led to the arrest of members of the group to cooperation between British and German police.
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