Sixteen years for Leeds cocaine smuggler

A man has been jailed for 16 years for his part in a plot to smuggle more than £150 million of cocaine into the UK.

Stephen Powell

Stephen Powell, 48, from Guiseley, West Yorkshire, was charged with conspiracy to import cocaine following the seizure of around a tonne of the drug on board the yacht Makayabella in an international operation involving the Irish Naval Service and the National Crime Agency.

Powell handed himself in to police in September this year. He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

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Powell’s father, John Powell, 70, of Silsden, West Yorkshire, plus two other men, were also charged by the Garda Siochana in Ireland with possessing cocaine with intent to import after they were detained on board the yacht.

They have appeared at Cork District Court in Ireland.

The luxury yacht was found in September in poor condition in the Atlantic Ocean, 200 miles off the south-west coast of Ireland.

National Crime Agency (NCA) investigators said that the boat, skippered by Powell, ran out of fuel on the way.

It is believed the drugs, which came from Venezuela, would have had a street value in excess of £160 million.

Paul Mitchell, prosecuting, said Powell told the officer at the station: “I believe you have got something of mine. £63 million worth of cocaine.” When the officer made no reply, Powell said: “I bet you weren’t expecting that, were you?”

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. It has not paid off.”

Two men and a woman, all from the West Yorkshire area, remain on bail as part of the investigation.