Jury retires in case of Leeds gang over international cocaine drug plot

Drugs haulDrugs haul
Drugs haul
A jury has retired to consider its verdicts in the trial of two people charged in connection with an international plot to smuggle £164 million of cocaine in to the UK.

Dawne Powell, 56, and James Hill, 30, are accused of taking part in the scheme which saw one tonne of the class A drug seized from a yacht off the coast of Ireland in September last year.

The trial at Leeds Crown Court heard that Powell, from Guiseley, West Yorkshire, helped her husband Stephen Powell by buying and insuring the Makayabella yacht, buying flights to the Caribbean, buying equipment for the yacht and paying for another boat used in the plot.

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Hill, from Ilkley, West Yorkshire, is accused of accompanying Stephen Powell on a trip to Wales, where the second boat was harboured, and making a call to the Makayabella on the day the drugs were seized by the Irish Navy.

The jury, of five men and seven women, heard that the Makayabella was seized on September 23 last year.

It had 1,025 2.2lb (1kg) blocks of high-purity cocaine contained in 41 packages on board. The five-day trial was told the street value of the drugs would have been around £164 million.

Mark McKone, prosecuting, told the jury that Stephen Powell bought the £100,000 Makayabella in his name but the yacht was paid for in four instalments from a bank account in the sole name of his wife. She also paid for insurance for the yacht and bought a satellite phone, the court heard.

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Mr McKone said Powell paid for flights to St Lucia for her husband and his father, John Powell, to collect the boat, which later brought the cocaine across the Atlantic from Venezuela.

The jury heard the second boat, the Sea Breeze, was bought by Stephen Powell but the cash payment of £18,350 was made by his wife. The boat was due to be used to meet the Makayabella out at sea to transfer the drugs, Mr McKone said.

Powell told the court she did not know her husband, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine, was involved in the drug smuggling plot and thought he wanted the Makayabella to sell on for profit. She said she believed the Sea Breeze was to be used for fishing trips.

The defendant said she thought the money she was given to pay for the Sea Breeze was from her husband’s poker winnings and the money used to buy the Makayabella was from the sale of another boat.

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Both defendants deny a charge of conspiracy to import cocaine. Powell also denies a charge of money laundering.

John Powell, Benjamin Mellor, Thomas Britteon, David Webster and Philip McElhone have all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine, the court heard.