Jailed British drugs smuggler used luxury yacht for international £160m cocaine plot

·2-min read

A British drugs smuggler who used a luxury yacht in a bid to smuggle £160m worth of cocaine into the UK has been jailed for 18 years.

Andrew Cole, 33, of Norton Road, Stockton-on-Tees, was aboard the luxury yacht Kahu when it was stopped off the coast of Plymouth.

Last September, Border Force and National Crime Agency (NCA) officers intercepted the yacht and discovered the massive haul of cocaine - totalling two tonnes - from South America.

Cole admitted smuggling the Class A drugs, which were between 60% and 80% pure, in January this year.

He was the link between an international organised crime syndicate and a UK group - and his role was to ensure the safe receipt, passage, and transfer of the cocaine to the yacht's crew.

On 28 August 2021, Cole sent a message, "Count is complete. 2000 bits", which meant 2,000 kilos of cocaine had been handed over to the Kahu.

Five other men, the captain and four crew members, were acquitted by a jury.

How text messages exposed smuggling plot

In the months before the Jamaican-flagged Kahu sailed, Cole had been involved in planning the smuggling operation, and travelled to Costa Rica and Panama in May 2021.

In early July he flew from Panama to Miami and the following day he flew to Barbados, where the Kahu arrived on 29 July from Florida.

During the journey across the Atlantic, Cole used a Samsung phone to contact others involved - and it ended up providing investigators with a running commentary on the smuggling operation.

The phone's messages show the Kahu was to meet with another vessel coming from Suriname in South America and take possession of the drugs.

As Cole and the crew realised a Border Force vessel was tailing them, a text message was sent saying: "We are getting boarded."

The response, which went unread, said: "Throw satphones what you use. Throw all phones. Did you copy, throw all phones."

Gavin Heckles, NCA operations manager, said: "This was a huge haul of cocaine, which we and our law enforcement partners have prevented coming into the UK drugs market and being sold across UK communities, where it would have fuelled more crime.

"We thank colleagues from Border Force and Australian Federal Police who were both key in seizing these drugs and the jailing of Andrew Cole."

The yacht was sold at auction earlier this month for £473,500.

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