Dad smuggled €4.5m cocaine in horse box to fund show-jumping daughter's career - court
A showjumper's father smuggled £4 million (€4.5m) of cocaine into Britain inside a horsebox to fund his daughter's career, a court heard.
International showjumper Jody Van Gerwen, 27, cried as her 52-year-old father Mari was jailed for 17 years.
The Dutch horse dealer and former showjumper, who has his own stables and training centre, claimed he had been forced to smuggle the Class A drugs into the country.
In July last year, he arrived at the freight lanes at Dover Eastern Docks with two horses in a horsebox.
He told Border Force officials the horses were not for jumping or racing and that he was heading to Bracknell, Berkshire, with 5,000 euros.
But Canterbury Crown Court heard that officers were suspicious and began searching a special compartment, where they discovered 50 kilos of the Class A drug. It had a street value of £3.96 million (€4.52m).
Van Gerwen denied all knowledge of the drugs and claimed the purpose of his journey was to deliver the horses to a female associate in Bracknell.
Following his arrest in Dover, Dutch Police raided Van Gerwen's house in Limbricht, the Netherlands, and seized 270,000 euros.
He was found guilty on Wednesday of importing class A drugs and jailed for 17 years.
Judge Rupert Lowe told him he had used his horse business as a cover for the smuggling operation, expecting to get substantial sums of money.
He said: "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.
"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."
He added: "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, heard the judge tell her she was an innocent victim of her father's drug dealing.
Judge Lower added: "I don't imagine for a moment that he let her know what he was doing. She has been an innocent victim and she will suffer for this."
Van Gerwen faced a similar charge at Reading Crown Court 18 months ago, but was acquitted by a jury.
Thames Valley Police confiscated £236,000 (€269,000) from him despite being cleared after he failed to explain where the money had come from.