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A career criminal, who was an international fixer for organised crime groups across the world, has been jailed for 28 years for masterminding a plot to smuggle 1.5 tonnes of cocaine into the UK.
John Alan Brooks, aged 61, who is originally from Blackpool but had been living in Marbella, Spain, assembled a crew to import the cocaine on board the boat Dances with Waves.
A multi-agency operation led by SOCA resulted in the dramatic interception of the boat by Irish authorities 170 miles off the south west coast of Ireland in November 2008. It had set sail from Trinidad in the Caribbean and was heading for Liverpool.
Brooks, who was arrested in November 2011 while visiting family in Blackpool, was sentenced today at Birmingham Crown Court after being found guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine.
Crew members Philip Doo and David Mufford, from Devon, and Christopher Wiggins, who had been living on the Costa del Sol, were arrested at the time of the seizure. They pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to supply, and were each jailed for ten years at Cork Circuit Criminal Court in May 2009.
SOCA Regional Head of Investigations Matt Horne said:
"Working with international partners to stop consignments of drugs before they can even reach our shores is a priority for SOCA, and is just one of the ways we undermine the cocaine trade and put the UK illegal drugs market under stress.
"Brooks was the go-to man for organised crime groups as he was an expert in arranging the transportation of huge quantities of drugs. His criminal career stretches back nearly 30 years, during which time he has travelled extensively using false identities and has been imprisoned on a number of occasions.
"We also discovered he had escaped from a Moroccan prison in 2000 but once he was in our sights there was only ever going to be one place he would end up. Now he's back in prison where he belongs and we're going after his money.
"Not only have we kept a huge amount of cocaine out of the UK, we can be confident that a number of crime groups have also been denied profits which would otherwise have been reinvested in further criminal activity.”
The Maritime Analysis Operations Centre for Narcotics in Lisbon played a vital coordinating role in the interception of Dances with Waves. SOCA shared intelligence with officers at the Centre, who were able to direct Ireland's Joint Task Force (Garda, Customs and Navy), onboard the naval vessel L.E. Niamh, to the boat's location as it was in danger of sinking. The cocaine was estimated to be worth over £134million.
As part of the investigation, SOCA officers were also able to evidence that prior to Brooks travelling to Trinidad to oversee the purchase of Dances with Waves in 2008 using a false identity, he had purchased the Passion Storm from the same boat yard in 2006. Its name was changed to Dragon and it was stopped by the Spanish authorities in 2007. Officers found 3,400 kilos of hashish on board and the four crew members were arrested.
In 2007 he went to the boat yard again to pay a deposit for the Picaro and also paid a deposit to a company in the UK for a rigid-hulled inflatable boat. Both deals fell through as he was arrested at Heathrow Airport for travelling on a false passport. He was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment.
After completing his latest jail term in the UK, Brooks faces extradition to France to serve the 13 year sentence he was given in his absence regarding a 4.2 tonne cannabis seizure in 1989.
SOCA's financial investigation is ongoing and a confiscation hearing will take place at a later date.