Friday, 12 December 2014

Jail for 'James Bond' criminals who played for "high stakes"

Two Dutch nationals who tried to land £16m of cocaine in North Ayrshire have been jailed.

Henri Van Doesburg (68) and Arnold Van Milt (49) were found guilty of plotting to remove 108kg (238lb) of the drug from a ship docked at Hunterston.  A container holding the drugs had been fixed to the hull of the vessel Cape Maria (pictured at Hunterston) and the men’s plan was to recover the haul using a Seabob underwater vehicle and other scuba-diving equipment once the ship was in port.

Judge James Spencer, sitting at Leeds Crown Court, sentenced Van Doesburg to 20 years and Van Milt to 16 years.  Van Doesburg's son, Roderick Van Doesburg, and grandson, Darryl-Jay Van Doesburg, were cleared of conspiring to import illegal drugs into the UK.

The court heard that more than 50 packages of high-purity cocaine, valued at £16.2m, was found by customs officers in the rudder space of the Cape Maria at Hunterston on May 9th. 

Arnold Van Milt, Roderick Van Doesburg and Darryl-Jay Van Doesburg were arrested later the same day at the Seamill Hydro where they had booked-in as guests.  Prosecution evidence revealed the Seabob, dry suits and other scuba-diving equipment were found in Van Milt’s car.  Dutch police arrested Henri Van Doesburg in the Netherlands the next day.

Describing the underwater vessel to the jury, prosecutor Paul Mitchell said, “You might have seen them used by James Bond.  It's the kind of thing you use if you need to travel underwater at high speed.”

Subsequent investigations revealed Van Milt had travelled to Columbia on a number of occasions, and that Henri Van Doesburg booked three hotel rooms in Rotterdam in March at the same time the Cape Maria was in port.  Van Doesburg was then shown to have booked into a campsite in North Lincolnshire, where the Cape Maria had travelled from Rotterdam.

After being found guilty by the jury, it was revealed that both Van Doesburg and Van Milt had previous convictions for drugs-related offences.

Judge Spencer told the men, “You played for high stakes and you lost”.

Commenting, David Norris of the UK National Crime Agency, said, “The underwater scooter was like something out of a Bond movie.  These criminals were going to use it to dive beneath the ship under the cover of darkness and recover the cocaine worth tens of millions of pounds.

"Van Doesburg and Van Milt provided a specialist drug-retrieval service for organised crime groups, and we have linked them to other ships that have been intercepted carrying cocaine.”

The arrests in North Ayrshire resulted from an operation run jointly by police in the UK and the Netherlands.

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