Pensioner appears in court in connection with €350m cocaine seizure in Cork

Court: All three were arrested on board the luxury yacht Makayabella
Court: All three were arrested on board the luxury yacht Makayabella

A pensioner who skippered a yacht across the Atlantic in a £150 million cocaine smuggling plot has pleaded guilty to his part in the botched plot.

John Powell, 70, of Silsden, West Yorkshire, entered a plea of guilty to two charges ahead of an expected trial at Cork Circuit Court in Ireland.

He is to be sentenced later today at the same court along with Benjamin Mellor, 35, of Bradford, West Yorkshire, and Thomas Britteon, 28, of Grimsby, north-east Lincolnshire.

All three were arrested on board the luxury yacht Makayabella, which was found last September in poor condition in the Atlantic Ocean, 200 miles (322km) off the south-west coast of Ireland.

Investigators in the UK also seized a 25ft (7.6m) motor boat called Sea Breeze, moored in Pwllheli, North Wales in connection with the smuggling ring.

Judge Sean O Donnabhain adjourned the sentencing until later.

The 41 bales of cocaine recovered from a yacht intercepted by the Naval Service off the Irish coast were found to have one of the highest purity levels ever recorded.

The drugs quadrupled in value to more than €350m as a result of the analysis, which means the seizure on the Makayabella last September now ranks as one of the biggest drug seizures in Irish history.

The largest seizure remains the €440m of high-grade Colombian cocaine seized in Dunlough Bay in Cork in July 2007.
That smuggling plot was discovered when the UK gang overloaded a smaller boat used to ferry the drugs ashore and accidentally filled a spare fuel tank with diesel instead of petrol.
Their small boat, helpless without power after the outboard engine failed, capsized in heavy seas.
A total of 62 bales of Colombian cocaine were left floating in the bay with a purity level of more than 75pc and a street value of €440m – more than double what gardai had originally anticipated.