Jailed Leeds cocaine smuggler fined £29,000

A LEEDS man who was involved in a plot to smuggle cocaine worth £150m in to the UK has been ordered to pay £29,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Stephen Powell. Image: NCA/PA Wire

Stephen Powell, 50, from Guiseley, is serving a 16 year prison sentence for conspiracy to import cocaine after more than a tonne of the drug was seized at seas.

The yacht Makayabella was stopped off the south-west coast of Ireland. Intelligence sources believe the class A cargo was headed for north Wales.

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Powell was sentenced in December 2014 after pleading guilty to the charge.

Powell appeared at Leeds Crown Court today via a video link from prison to face a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The court heard Powell’s benefit from his offending was £46,347,529 but has seizable assets available of just £29,260.

Judge Tom Bayliss, QC, ordered that Powell pay the lower sum within three months or face up to 12 months being added to his sentence.

The operation against the smuggling plot had involved the Irish Naval Service and the National Crime Agency (NCA).

David Norris, NCA branch commander, said at the time of the incident: “This single seizure roughly equates to 4% of the total amount of cocaine we estimate is imported into the UK every year.”

The yacht was found in September 2014 in poor condition in the Atlantic Ocean, 200 miles off the south-west coast of Ireland, while investigators also seized a motor boat called Sea Breeze, moored in Pwllheli, North Wales.

At Powell’s sentencing hearing, Paul Mitchell, prosecuting, told the court that Powell confessed his part in the conspiracy to his mother before handing himself in to the police.

Mr Mitchell said Powell told the officer at the station: “I believe you have got something of mine. £63m worth of cocaine.”

Searches made of his home after he was arrested recovered satellite phones used to communicate with the vessel involved.

Adrian Pollard, defending Powell, said: “He took a gamble. He was approached, he involved himself, the risk was a significant one, it has not paid off.”