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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 April 2007, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Cocaine trafficking boss guilty
Brian Wright
Brian Wright was well-known in the horseracing world
A drugs baron has been found guilty of running an international cocaine empire and jailed for 30 years.

Brian Wright, 60, who lived in Chelsea, west London, before fleeing the country, masterminded multi-million pound shipments of the Class A drug.

The gang used luxury yachts to import the cocaine from Venezuela, via the Caribbean, to the UK, a court heard.

Prosecutors told Woolwich Crown Court Wright used horseracing as a "facade" for his real and illicit income.

The drug smuggler was found guilty of conspiracy to evade prohibition on the importation of a controlled drug and conspiracy to supply drugs.

The reality will be that he probably dies in jail
Jerome Lynch QC

Judge Peter Moss passed sentence on Tuesday after reading health reports.

Wright's counsel Jerome Lynch QC said: "The reality will be that he probably dies in jail."

The 60-year-old listened to the judge ask for any mitigating circumstances, before he stood up to say: "There is no mitigation, Your Honour."

The trial heard Wright's criminal network was enormous, masterminding the shipment of cocaine, worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

11-year investigation

A statement by Customs released after the case said the network was "probably the most sophisticated and successful global cocaine trafficking organisation ever to target the UK".

The investigation, codenamed Operation Extend, led officers on a massive trail spanning Ireland, the Caribbean, the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Australia, France, South Africa, Switzerland, Spain and northern Cyprus.

An 11-year investigation saw 19 convictions worldwide, excluding that of Wright.

The Sea Mist Yacht
The Sea Mist had 80m worth of cocaine on board

The probe was sparked in September 1996, when a yacht named the Sea Mist was discovered off course in Cork, Ireland, carrying 599kg of cocaine with a street value of 80m hidden in the dumb waiter.

Over the next two years four further boatloads of cocaine were smuggled ashore under the control of the Wright Organisation, Customs said.

In February 1999, officers seized 472kg of cocaine from a lock-up garage in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, and from a farm in Laleham, Surrey.

Wright, originally from Ireland, fled to Northern Cyprus in 1999. He was arrested in 2005 when he went to Spain.

He was well-known in horse racing circles and rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, including comedian Jim Davidson, who was called to testify.

The 60-year-old was banned from going to race meetings and liaising with jockeys and trainers due to evidence he was "previously involved in serious incidents that defrauded the betting public", the Jockey Club said.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
How Brian Wright ran his smuggling operation



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