Gang accused of plot to use 'James Bond-style' submarine to smuggle £16m of cocaine into UK

Underwater jet ski would have been used to bring the drug ashore, a court heard

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The Independent Online

Four Dutch men attempted to smuggle £16 billion of cocaine into a remote Scottish port using a submarine-style jet ski, a court has heard.

The underwater vessel, similar to that used by Sean Connery in the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball, would have allowed the alleged gang to flood the UK market with more than 100kg of the drug, Leeds Crown Court was told.

The alleged family plot involved Henri Van Doesburg, 68, his son Roderick Van Doesburg, 23, and 22-year-old grandson Darryl-Jay Van Doesburg, along with friend Arnold Van Milt, 49.

All the defendants denied charges of conspiracy to import illegal drugs on Tuesday.

Paul Mitchell, speaking for the prosecution, told the jury the men were arrested after customs officers found more than 50 packages of “extremely high purity” cocaine concealed in the rudder space of a boat called the Cape Maria.

It was moored at Hunterston, near Largs in Ayrshire, when the discovery was made on May 9, and three of the defendants were arrested in nearby Seamill that evening.

Henri Van Doesburg was arrested in Aalsmeer, in the Netherlands, the next day.

Van Milt, Roderick Van Doesburg and Darryl-Jay Van Doesburg, who all had scuba diving experience, allegedly planned to access the cocaine from the outside of the ship using a “Seabob” vessel.

Seabob-1.jpg
A promotional shot of a 'Seabob' in action

With a similar appearance to a jet ski, it allows users to travel underwater at speed by dragging them along underwater as they hold on to the handles.

"You might have seen them used by James Bond and James Bond's adversaries," Mr Mitchell told the jury.

When police searched their car and an inflatable speedboat, they also found dry suits and other scuba diving equipment, the court heard.

Mr Mitchell said that a week and a half before the drugs were seized, the group attracted attention in Cleethorpes, North East Lincolnshire, where they were seen launching an inflatable boat from unusual places and leaving it on sand banks.

On one occasion, lifeboat officers and coastguards noticed the boat floating unattended off the coast of Cleethorpes.

A boat called the Indian Friendship was moored nearby at the same time, which had previously had 148kg of cocaine seized from on board while in Rotterdam, prosecutors said.

Mr Mitchell told the jury: “There is a clear similarity between what the Indian Friendship was up to and what the Cape Maria was up to. They were both bringing large amounts of cocaine into this continent.”

The jury heard that the defendants left Cleethorpes the day after the Indian Friendship sailed out of the area and Henri Van Doesburg returned to the Netherlands while the remaining three men travelled to Scotland.

They booked into a hotel near the mooring place of the Cape Maria but a customs officer, who happened to be a fellow guest, noticed the boat and raised the alarm.

Mr Mitchell told the court: “The motivation to become involved in this crime is a straightforward one.

"The potential profits you can make are absolutely extraordinary.

“This is not a small amount of cocaine for anyone's personal use. It goes without saying this is an enormous amount of cocaine.”

The court heard that Van Milt had links to Columbia – formerly the cocaine capital of the world - where he had travelled on a number of occasions.

Computer searches and documents discovered also linked the defendants to the two ships involved, the jury was told.

“The Cape Maria importation of cocaine in May was merely an example of an ongoing conspiracy of repeated importations of large quantities of cocaine into Europe on vessels from South America,” Mr Mitchell said.

The trial continues.

Additional reporting by PA