Seaman given 30 years for pounds 100m cocaine plot: Sentence set to deter 'murderous cargoes'. John Arlidge reports

A SPANISH sea captain was jailed for 30 years yesterday for his part in Britain's biggest maritime cocaine smuggling plot.

Francisco Jose Boo Torres, 28, from Galicia, tried to smuggle half a ton of Colombian cocaine with a street value of pounds 100m into Britain in January 1991. He was convicted earlier this month after a four-year international investigation that cost more than pounds 1m.

In the High Court in Edinburgh, the judge, Lord Weir, said he hoped the sentence would act as a deterrent to others planning to exploit Scotland's coastline to import 'murderous cargoes' which caused 'incalculable misery and death'.

Customs and Excise officers who led the investigation, code-named Klondyke, expressed 'delight' at the outcome. John Clifford, assistant chief investigation officer, said: 'The smugglers were class A gangsters. Their operations mirrored any multinational organisation, with a financial controller, distribution managers and others. Torres was the vital transport link. He is one of the most important drugs smugglers ever to be brought to justice.'

At his trial earlier this month, the High Court in Glasgow was told that in December 1990 Torres loaded the cocaine and parachuted on to the Panama-registered freighter, the Dimar B, off the Colombian coast. He then sailed 6,000 miles to the west coast of Scotland.

Customs officers in the area, acting on intelligence reports that a cannabis smuggling operation was planned, had mounted surveillance around Ullapool. As they kept watch, a dinghy from the Dimar B sailed through storms into Oldany Bay, 40 miles further north, where the drugs, in hessian sacks, were loaded unseen into an orange van, which set off for London.

An off-duty Ullapool policeman, Sergeant Michael MacLennan, spotted the heavily- laiden vehicle in a lay-by. He became suspicious and contacted Customs officers.

The van was intercepted on the A9 Inverness road one hour later. Customs officials, who had expected to find half a ton of cannabis, were shocked to discover enough cocaine for more than a million 'scores'.

Five Scots were arrested. They were jailed three years ago for a total of 72 years for selling their knowledge of the coastal waters off Sutherland to the drugs barons and helping to transport the cocaine.

Torres escaped to Galway Bay and continued his smuggling activities. One year later, severe storms off Canada forced the Dimar B into Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was arrested after 16 tons of cannabis were unloaded. The Canadian authorities told British Customs officials.

After reports that drugs barons were planning to spring Torres from jail, Canadian police put him under 24-hour armed guard.

Torres was extradited to Scotland last July. The jury at his trial in Glasgow was told that Customs officers had found maps, charts and scribbled notes of Ullapool telephone numbers on board the Dimar B.

Customs officials yesterday said efforts would continue to track down the Scot, known only as Mr X, who is thought to have masterminded the operation. He fled 24 hours before the Dimar B sailed into UK waters. He was arrested in Spain but escaped two months ago during extradition proceedings.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration Engineer

£24000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: These refrigeration specialists...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Logistics and Supply Chain

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an operational role and...

Recruitment Genius: CNC Sheet Metal Worker / Fabricator

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working within the workshop of ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st / 2nd Line IT Support Engineer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist high tech compa...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral