Page last updated at 17:58 GMT, Thursday, 4 June 2009 18:58 UK

Ten jailed over 36m drugs plot

Clockwise from top left Goran Otovic, Dragan Stankovic, Moshe Kedar and Mordechai Hersh
Moshe Kedar (bottom right), aged 81, was the captain of the boat

Ten men have been jailed over a plot to smuggle £36m worth of cannabis stashed in a rusty tugboat into Southampton.

The smugglers were caught in an international operation after the boat was tracked as she sailed from Morocco.

Six men, including an 81-year-old, were found guilty at Winchester Crown Court while four others pleaded guilty.

All were charged with offences relating to the illegal importation of a class C controlled drug and jailed for between seven and 10 years.

The Abbira started her journey from the Spanish port of Ceuta, close to Morocco.

From there, she sailed to waters off Morocco, near Larache, where the drugs were loaded on to the tug.

From the Moroccan coast, the Abbira headed north into Southampton where she berthed on the Itchen River in April 2008.

Undercover officers watched the gang as they prepared to offload the haul and swooped on the men at their hotels.

A search of the Abbira uncovered 12.5 tonnes of cannabis resin

Investigators then boarded the boat at the American Wharf marina and spent five days recovering 419 bales of cannabis.

The drugs had been stuffed into tanks designed to hold fresh water, foam for fire fighting and ballast.

Dusan Mileusnic, 49, Negovan Jovanovic, 58, Goran Otovic, 54, Dragan Stankovic, 54, Moshe Kedar, 81, and Mordechai Hersh, 67 were found guilty.

Earlier in the trial, Mohinder Rai, 35, Baljinder Rai, 31, Anjum Nazir, 39, all from Leicester, and Israeli national Yehezkel Srebro, 57, who were due to receive and distribute the drugs, pleaded guilty.

The trial heard that an Israeli organised crime group employed an eastern European crew to transport the drugs.

Serbian crew member Stankovic was jailed for 10 years while Israeli boat captain Kedar, Israeli gang leader Srebro and Otovic were jailed for nine years.

Hersh, another gang leader, was jailed for eight years and Mileusnic and Jovanovic for seven years.

The three Leicester men, internet entrepreneur Nazir and brothers Mohinder and Baljinder Rai, were all jailed for eight years.

Two Ukrainians were acquitted.

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