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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 April 2007, 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK
12m cocaine importer is jailed
A man thought to be one of Britain's biggest importers of cocaine has been jailed for 22 years.

Blackfriars Crown Court heard Karl Pettitt, 38, originally of Gainsborough, Lincs, boasted of living next door to the Beckhams in Madrid.

He was arrested after an investigation by British and Spanish police. He had admitted conspiring to import cocaine.

He was linked to two seizures in the London area in 2003, where police found cocaine with a street value of 12m.

'High-profile area'

The police investigation found Pettitt was buying cocaine from Columbia and importing it to the UK.

The court heard more than 107kg (235lb) of the drug was seized in Croydon, South London, in May 2003 and Bexley, South-East London, in August 2003.

He rented a 1.4m luxury villa in Madrid and boasted about his wealth in telephone calls intercepted by Spanish Police - claiming he lived in a "very high-profile area" with "Posh and Becks next door", the court was told.

Prosecutor Graham Reeds, said: "It is certainly the case that in addition to receiving cash or other reward as his benefit from drug trafficking... the defendant also bought and sold watches, jewellery and cars.

"But the prosecution do not accept, and have never accepted, that this was a legitimate enterprise... the obtaining of high-value items was a method used by the defendant to launder his benefits from drug trafficking."

After his initial arrest in Madrid in September 2003, Pettitt absconded for nearly three years until he was re-arrested near Barcelona in March 2006.

'Misery and devastation'

Passing sentence, Judge Charles Byers told him he was "almost certainly at the top of the organisational ladder for the importation of drugs into this country".

He added: "You lived a lifestyle which was that of a multi-millionaire and that must be contrasted against the misery and devastation that such a trade leaves in the streets of this city and other cities of this country."

After the hearing, Ian Welch, of the Crown Prosecution Service's organised crime division, said: "Karl Pettitt is one of Britain's biggest cocaine importers and he has been leading a lavish lifestyle off the back of his illegal profits.

"His sentence today marks the end of a serious organised criminal enterprise."

Pettitt was also banned from leaving the UK for 12 years after the end of his sentence, unless he is extradited to face charges abroad.

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