Three charged in UK over €80m West Cork cocaine seizure
Plot last year to smuggle haul of drug into UK foiled by Irish authorities off West Cork coast
Irish Naval Service vessel the LE Niamh with detained yacht the Makayabella on September 24th, 2014, off West Cork. File photograph: Defence Forces Ireland/PA Wire
Irish Navy Service personnel with the seizure of cocaine in September 2014. File photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Three more people have been charged by the British authorities in connection with a plot last year to smuggle €80 million worth of cocaine into the UK which was foiled by the Irish authorities off the West Cork coast.
The two men and a woman were all charged following an investigation by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) following the seizure of the Makayabella by the Irish Naval Service about 250 miles off the southwest coast of Ireland on September 23rd, 2014.
The yacht, which was carrying about a tonne of cocaine, was detained by the Naval Service in a Joint Task Force operation with the Customs & Excise and the Garda.
The operation to track the vessel as it crossed the Atlantic from the Caribbean involved the Irish authorities and the NCA and National Maritime Information Centre in the UK, as well as French and Venezuelan authorities.
On Thursday, David Webster (44), of Rillmead, Otley, West Yorkshire, Philip McElhone (29), of Freemantle Place, Halton Moor, Leeds, and Dawne Powell (56), of Netherfield Road, Guiseley, Leeds, were all charged with conspiracy to import cocaine.
Ms Powell was also charged with money-laundering when all three appeared at Wakefield Magistrates’ Court. All were remanded in custody to appear at Leeds Crown Court on April 8th.
NCA investigators in the UK identified Mr Powell as having purchased the Makayabella and another vessel, the Sea Breeze, which was to be used to meet the Makayabella and collect the drugs off the Irish coast before bringing them ashore at Pwllheli in North Wales.
However, the plan hit the rocks when the Sea Breeze, being skippered by Mr Powell, ran out of fuel on the way to the rendezvous point and had to be rescued by the RNLI lifeboat from Rosslare, where it was inspected by Irish Customs officials before returning to North Wales.
Irish Naval Service personnel boarded the Makayabella and the three crew on board were detained before being handed over to gardaí at Haulbowline Naval Base in Cork.
They were questioned and charged with drug offences and are currently before the Irish courts.
Meanwhile, NCA officers later found the Sea Breeze motor cruiser moored in Pwllheli marina and, although Mr Powell had disappeared, he subsequently handed himself into police after NCA officers raided his home in Guiseley.
He pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court in October to conspiring to import a Class A drug into the UK and was remanded in custody for sentence before he was handed a 16-year sentence by Judge Peter Collier for the offence.