Mastermind behind €440m cocaine haul gets 20 years
THE mastermind in Ireland's biggest ever offshore cocaine seizure has been handed a 20-year sentence in a London court after being extradited from Spain.
Stephen "Spider" Brown (46), from south London, was convicted of an attempt to smuggle €440m worth of South American cocaine into west Cork.
But the smuggling operation was botched in July 2007 after a gang member accidentally put diesel rather than petrol into the outboard motor of a rigid inflatable boat (RIB), which subsequently stalled and overturned in heavy seas.
A total of 62 bales of cocaine were left floating in Dunlough Bay, and Brown, who was alleged to have watched the incident from the shore, fled the area before gardai arrived.
The gang had hoped to use a number of RIBs to land 1.5 tonnes of cocaine from a catamaran yacht, 'Lucky Day', on the west Cork shore and then load it into vehicles and transport it to Britain.
During a follow-up operation, gardai seized four vehicles on the Mizen peninsula, three jeeps and a saloon car.
The cocaine was found to have a purity level of more than 75pc and was traced to the Medellin area of Colombia.
One gang member was rescued from the sea, another was detained on shore and two others were found after they had fled into the mountains.
When arrested 36 hours later, they had to be treated for hypothermia.
The four were later given prison sentences ranging from 10 to 30 years at Cork Circuit Court. Two others were later jailed in the UK.
The other gang leader was a retired police detective, Michael Daly, formerly of Bexley, Kent, and he was sentenced to 22 years in 2010, while retired fireman Alan "Big Al" Wells, from Sidcup, London, got 14 years.
Another of the gang members has since died. A ninth person was acquitted of any involvement in the operation following a trial in the UK last year.
Brown was extradited from Spain last April and brought before Westminster Magistrates Court the following day.
He was given the 20-year sentence when he pleaded guilty at Woolwich Crown Court yesterday, where the judge paid tribute to the work carried out by the gardai and the London Metropolitan police.
Metropolitan officers also gave credit to the role played by the gardai in capturing the smugglers, after an operation that a trial judge was told resembled a plot from the James Bond film 'Casino Royale'.
Brown had been accused of conspiring to smuggle the cocaine into the UK and plotting to supply 1.5 tonnes of the drug to dealers across Britain.
A 10th suspect was arrested by Portuguese police in August in connection with the discovery of a quantity of cocaine on a yacht off the Algarve.