Pair face life in jail over £580m Ireland drugs haul

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The Independent Online

Two British men are facing up to life behind bars after admitting their part in Ireland’s largest ever drugs seizure.

The record 1.9 ton haul of cocaine worth up to €675m (£595m) was recovered by elite navy teams on board a yacht as it struggled to stay afloat in the Atlantic Ocean.

Philip Doo from Devon and Christopher Wiggins of Costa del Sol in Spain pleaded guilty over their part in the elaborate international drug smuggling ring that was smashed 170 miles off the south west coast of Ireland.

The pair were caught after Irish navy, gardai and customs swooped on the 60ft ocean-going boat Dances With Waves off Cork last November acting on intelligence from agencies as it was tracked from South America.

Senior drug officers said the stash was destined for dealers in mainland Europe.

Doo, 52, and Wiggins, 42, admitted possession of cocaine with intent to sell or supply during a brief hearing in Cork Circuit Criminal Court, yesterday.

The two spoke quietly as they entered their guilty pleas in the packed courtroom and showed no emotion as they were led away by prison guards.

The pair are facing anything from 10 years in prison to a maximum life sentence.

Tough anti-drug laws were introduced last year as part of amendments to the Criminal Justice Act as the Government sought harsher penalties for dealers and others involved in gangsterism.

Included in the crackdown was a mandatory 10 years in jail for any drug seizure worth more than €13,000 (£11,470).

Doo from Rocklands House, Higher Manor Road, Brixham, Devon, and Wiggins with an address at Mirador de Costalita, Estepona, Malaga, were remanded in custody by Judge Patrick J Moran.

They will be sentenced on 8 May.

A third British man will appear in court on Monday in relation to the seizure.

The haul — the largest in the history of the Irish state — was discovered in the hull of the ocean-going yacht about a month after the boat came to the attention of authorities in the Caribbean.

In treacherous seas, naval teams stood by to swoop on the damaged vessel.

Elite members of Ireland’s naval service were forced to board the stricken vessel under Operation Seabight amid fears it was about to overturn in storm force winds late on 5 November.

Doo and Wiggins were arrested.

Loaded with 75 bales of cocaine, it had been tracked by Europe’s anti-drug trafficking agency Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre — Narcotics (MAOC-N) across the Atlantic before Irish authorities moved in.

Under armed guard the yacht was sailed to Castletownbere, west Cork, where bales which filled the yacht’s hull were unloaded and stacked on the quayside.

Locals claimed isolated parts of Ireland’s rugged coastline have for years been a haven for international drug smugglers targeting Europe.

This article is from The Belfast Telegraph