The father of a top showjumper has been jailed after he smuggled £4 million of cocaine into Britain in a horse box to fund his daughter’s promising career.
International showjumper Jody Van Gerwen, 27, reportedly wept in the gallery as her 52-year-old dad Mari was jailed for 17 years.
The Dutch horse dealer, himself a former show jumper, claims that he was forced to smuggle the Class A drugs into the country.
His elaborate scheme was discovered last July after he arrived at the freight lanes at Dover Eastern Docks with two horses in a horse box.
Despite telling Border Forces that he was heading to Bracknell with the animals, officials became suspicious and began searching a special compartment, where they discovered 50 kilos of the Class A drug.
Van Gerwen initially denied all knowledge of the drugs and claimed the purpose of his journey was to deliver the horses to a female associate.
After his arrest, Dutch police raided Van Gerwen’s house in Limbricht, Netherlands, and seized €270,000 (£236,000) in cash.
Judge Rupert Lowe told Van Gerwen that he had used his horse business as a cover for the smuggling operation, expecting to get substantial sums of money.
‘I accept you run a legitimate horse trading business and you spend a good deal of your time running a riding school and assisting his daughter’s career’, he said.
‘You were convicted by a jury in a very short space of time of importing 50 kilos of cocaine.
‘I am confident that you were not the boss of this enterprise but a courier and you got involved in order to make money.
‘This trial took place against a background of the very successful career of your daughter Jody as an international showjumper.
‘That is an extremely expensive occupation, notwithstanding the sponsorship and prize money and the returns of the rising school and horse-trading business.
‘I am confident that at least part of your motivation of you becoming involved was to further the cause of her very expensive career at the highest level.’
Jody, who attended every day of the trial and gave evidence for the defence, was told by the judge that she was an innocent victim of her father’s drug dealing.
‘I don’t imagine for a moment that he let her know what he was doing’, he said.
‘She has been an innocent victim and she will suffer for this.’
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Speaking after the hearing, senior investigating officer at the National Crime Agency, Darren Herbert, said: ‘The organised criminals involved in the distribution of cocaine are often also linked to violence and exploitation.
‘They rely heavily on smugglers like Van Gerwen, so his was a key role in a longer, damaging chain.
‘We work closely with partners overseas and our Border Force colleagues to target those who seek to undermine the security of the UK border, and bring them to justice.’