Grandmother who bought cocaine yacht says she 'didn't know of €300m plot'

The Makayabella was boarded 250km off Mizen Head by an armed LE Niamh team
The Makayabella was boarded 250km off Mizen Head by an armed LE Niamh team

A 56-year-old grandmother accused of paying for a yacht used in an international drug smuggling plot has said she did not know her husband wanted the boat to import cocaine.

Dawne Powell, from Guiseley, West Yorkshire, told Leeds Crown Court she was not involved in the operation to smuggle cocaine worth nearly £200 million into the UK.

She said she believed money used to buy two boats involved in the plot came from her husband Stephen Powell's poker winnings.

The court heard two boats were used in the scheme: the Makayabella, which was bought in the Caribbean and used to bring the drugs across the Atlantic from Venezuela; and a boat called the Sea Breeze, which was harboured in Wales with the intention of meeting the Makayabella out at sea and transferring the drugs.

The jury has been told that the Makayabella was seized by the Irish Navy on September 23 last year. It had 1,025 2.2lb (1kg) blocks of high-purity cocaine contained in 41 packages, with a street value of around £164 million.

The 60 foot vessel was intercepted some 200 nautical miles off Mizen Head - Ireland's most southerly point.

Stephen Powell bought the £100,000 Makayabella in his name but it was paid for in four instalments from a bank account in the sole name of his wife, the court heard.

Dawne Powell also paid for flights to St Lucia for her husband and his father, John Powell, insurance for the Makayabella and a satellite phone for the yacht, the jury was told.

The court heard that the Sea Breeze was bought by Stephen Powell but the cash payment of £18,350 was made by his wife.

Prosecutor Mark McKone said she was "in it together" with her husband.

Giving evidence today, Powell said she did not take part in the conspiracy to import cocaine and was "absolutely not" knowingly involved in paying for the items to be used in the plot.

The defendant, who said she had not worked for around 10 years, told the jury she believed their income came from selling cars and from poker, which her husband played five nights a week.

She said he gave her money in a carrier bag to pay for the Sea Breeze, which she believed he wanted to use for fishing trips.

She told the court: "He said it was poker money. I had no reason to doubt him."

When asked about payments totalling £100,000 that were made into her bank account, Powell said: "He told me he'd sold a boat."

Powell said her husband wanted to buy the Makayabella to sell for profit in the UK and he often asked her to make payments using her cards because he was always losing his own.

She said: "There were no alarm bells ringing. I wasn't told very much and I wasn't interested, to be honest."

Powell is on trial with James Hill, 30, from Ilkley, West Yorkshire. Both deny a charge of conspiracy to import cocaine. Powell also denies a charge of money laundering.

Stephen Powell, John Powell, Benjamin Mellor, Thomas Britteon, David Webster and Philip McElhone have all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine, the court has heard.

The trial continues.