Page last updated at 12:27 GMT, Friday, 8 May 2009 13:27 UK

Sinking drug runners get 10 years

Cocaine package
The cocaine was on a yacht being tracked by European agencies

Three British men have been jailed for 10 years each for their roles in an elaborate international drugs smuggling ring smashed off the Irish coast.

Philip Doo and David Mufford, from Devon, England and Christopher Wiggins, with an address in Spain's Costa del Sol, appeared in court in Cork.

The men were caught with 1.5 tonnes of cocaine worth 400m euro (£356m) on a stricken yacht off Ireland.

The boat, Dances With Waves, had been tracked from the Caribbean.

All three were arrested when the drugs, from South America, were recovered after the Irish navy boarded the boat amid fears it might sink as it struggled to stay afloat in the Atlantic Ocean in November 2008.

European intelligence agencies had been tracking the boat across the Atlantic before the raid.

The sentencing hearing at Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that none of the men had any convictions or been involved in organised crime before this operation, but were recruited by an international gang who offered them a six-figure sum each to courier the drugs.

They had travelled to Trinidad and Tobago, via Spain and Venezuela, where Doo purchased Dances With Waves with a false Irish passport four months earlier.

A study of the vessel's GPS system revealed it was programmed to travel along the Irish coast to Caernarfon Bay, off Holyhead in North Wales.

Judge Patrick Moran said he could only "shudder" at the thought of what havoc the drugs could have caused to young people and their families in the men's home country.

Doo, 52, from Rocklands House, Higher Manor Road, Brixham, Devon, sobbed as he was jailed.

His 42-year-old ex-brother-in-law Wiggins, with an address in Mirador de Costalita, Estepona, Malaga, and Mufford, 44, of Clennon Lane, Torquay, bowed their heads.

All three had pleaded guilty to being on board a ship which was not registered in any country or territory and being in possession of cocaine worth more than 13,000 euro (£11,500) for sale or supply.

Initially authorities believed the seizure set a new Irish record, outstripping the massive haul pulled from the sea off Cork a year earlier.

It was estimated to be up to 1.9 tonnes and worth more than 650 euro (£579m) on the streets but after detailed analysis by customs and the drugs squad, the 75 uneven bales weighed in at 1.5 tonnes and were valued at 400m euro (£356m).

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