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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 April 2007, 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK
Cocaine baron jailed for 30 years
Brian Wright
Brian Wright was well-known in the horseracing world
The boss of a lucrative international cocaine smuggling empire has been 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.

"You were a master criminal, manipulative, influential and powerful," Judge Peter Moss told him.

Wright's lawyers said they would seek to appeal against what they consider to be an "excessive sentence".

"We are disappointed by the decision of the jury," Wright's solicitor Daniel Berman told the BBC News website.

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

"We will be examining every aspect of the trial in order to pursue an appeal against conviction. The sentence may be regarded as excessive."

Judge Moss told Wright: "I accept that you will be a very much older man when you are entitled to be released."

"I accept too...the possibility that you may not live that long."

He said cocaine abuse caused "unquantifiable misery to tens of thousands of victims".

"Those who import and distribute it call upon themselves lengthy terms of imprisonment," he said.

11-year investigation

"You played for the very highest stakes and won, for a number of years, a luxury lifestyle.

"You knew the consequences of detection and conviction."

Wright, who was found guilty of drugs offences on Monday, accepted he would die in jail, his lawyer said.

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

The Sea Mist Yacht

His gang used luxury yachts to import the drugs from Venezuela, via the Caribbean, to the UK, Woolwich Crown Court heard.

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 and masterminded the shipment of cocaine with a street value running into hundreds of millions of pounds.

Customs officials said the network was "probably the most sophisticated and successful global cocaine trafficking organisation ever to target the UK".

An investigation, codenamed Operation Extend, led officers on a massive trail spanning the Irish Republic, 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.

Four boatloads

The probe was sparked in September 1996 when a yacht named the Sea Mist was discovered off course in Cork, in the Irish Republic, carrying 599kg (1,320lb) 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 (1,040lb) of cocaine from a lock-up garage in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, and from a farm in Laleham, Surrey.

Wright, originally from the Irish Republic, 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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