A pilot nicknamed ‘Biggles’ has been jailed for 19 years for importing £34m worth of cocaine into Britain under the guise of an aerial photography business.
Andrew Wright, 52, earned the moniker of the fictional pilot and adventurer by flying in massive quantities of the Class ‘A’ drug from Germany in his light Cessna aircraft, touching down at Breighton Aerodrome.
The huge blocks of high-purity cocaine were brought in from a private airfield in Kassel, in central Germany before being driven by Jamie Williams, 38, to Essex for delivery to kingpin Mark Dowling, 43.
Dowling, described as a ‘big fish’, was jailed for 24 years, while his ‘trusted lieutenant’ Williams was handed a 23-year sentence.
Wright used his business ‘Skyviews R Us’ as a front for the international conspiracy, but was arrested after landing at Breighton Aerodrome, near his home – Toad Hall, in Selby.
Officers found four blocks of cocaine in the boot of his blue Porsche Cayenne while another 20 were recovered from his £65,000 airplane on 17 November 2014.
The 34kg haul, with a street value of £4.25m, was one of eight importations made by Wright over a three-month period.
A total of 268kg of cocaine, with an estimated street value of up to £33.5m, was brought into the country, which would amount to 8 percent of the 3.4tonnes seized in Britain in the year 2014 to 2015.
Judge Nicholas Cooke QC described the figures as ‘staggering.’
Prosecutor Daniel Robinson said Dowling made £3,300 per kilo, paying Wright £1,500 per kilo and Williams a £12,000-a-trip flat fee.
‘At one point, the conspirators had just shy of £2m at their disposal,’ he said.
‘Before the flights back from Germany, Mr Williams travelled to mainland Europe.
‘He picked up the drugs, probably in the Netherlands, before taking them by car to Germany where they were then loaded onto the plane.
‘He then drove to England, to Selby, to pick them up before driving down to Essex to give the drugs to Dowling, who was in charge of the operation.’
Wright’s barrister, Tom Gent, said his client became involved in the smuggling operation after his wife lost her son in a road traffic accident.
‘It’s accepted by the Crown that for many years he and his wife owned a legitimate small business in aerial photography.
‘He took his eye off that and ran into financial difficulties,’ he said.
‘He does not seek to dispute he had a vital role in this conspiracy.’
Dowling made so much money he was able to by his girlfriend a £49,000 engagement ring. He was arrested while making a handover of 19.5kgs of cannabis to David Rowe, 57, in June last year.
When police raided Williams’ home in May last year, officers found a stash of drugs, guns, cash and ammunition.
Mick Maloney, from the National Crime Agency, said: ‘With valuable help from our colleagues in the Metropolitan Police, North Yorkshire Police, Border Force and the authorities in Germany we have dismantled a significant criminal enterprise.’
Wright, of Toad Hall, Park Lane, Selby; Williams, of (44) Amery Gardens, in Romford, Essex; and Dowling, of (29) Surman Crescent, in Hutton, Essex pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine.
Dowling has admitted further drug offences along with money laundering, while Williams has admitted other charges relating to drugs, a firearm and ammunition found at his home.
Rowe, of (3) Saddlers Mews, Taverners Way, in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, who has admitted possessing cannabis, was jailed for 18 months.