Two men have been jailed after their attempt to cross the North Sea on a jet ski with £200,000 of cocaine in a backpack ended in a rescue operation when they ran out of fuel.
Steven Brogan, 36, and 34-year-old Anthony Reilly, both of Skelmersdale in Lancashire, took the jet ski from the Lowestoft area of Suffolk to a pick-up point in the Netherlands to collect the drugs, Ipswich Crown Court heard.
Prosecutor Hugh Vass said that on the return journey on September 30 last year, the pair approached a survey vessel and “asked the crew for some fuel – that request was refused”.
“At one point they were pitched into the sea,” said Mr Vass, adding that one man was showing signs of hypothermia and the other of exhaustion.
He said that the Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat and the HM Coastguard helicopter from Hull helped rescue the men, who were airlifted to hospital in Gorleston in Norfolk.
Crew from the helicopter alerted police after becoming suspicious of the men’s behaviour and they were arrested on arrival, Mr Vass said.
He said that Brogan claimed to officers that he had been “fishing by jet ski but ran into difficulty when they ran out of fuel”.
He said officers found the men had two kilos of cocaine in a backpack, valued at up to £200,000.
Brogan’s van and trailer were located and found to contain maps of the North Sea, a pick-up point in the Netherlands, tide timetables, a mobile phone and diving equipment, Mr Vass said, adding that the jet ski was registered to Brogan.
Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) identified Brogan’s vehicle being driven in the Lowestoft area on July 6, Mr Vass said.
Both men admitted to importing class A drugs.
The judge, Recorder Richard Christie QC, jailed Brogan for seven years and six months and Reilly, who admitted to the offence before his co-defendant, to seven years in prison.
The judge said it was a “sophisticated enterprise”, adding: “There was potentially a visit to the Suffolk area from the north west of England on an earlier occasion to at least recce the situation.
“At the time of this offence a jet ski was taken by you both across the sea to Holland.
“A package of two kilos of cocaine was collected and in what could be described as a daring enterprise you sought to come back across the sea with a jet ski.”
He went on: “It was only because of the weather that things went badly wrong for you and you were very fortunate to be picked up and at public expense taken to hospital.”
Mark Stevens, for Brogan, described the defendant as a “trusted lieutenant” who was “clearly entrusted to go to collect the drugs and motivated by financial advantage”.
He said Brogan is a successful trained boxer and worked to help children within the community.
“He lost out on a fight, he had no money coming in, he was asked to do this and foolishly agreed,” Mr Stevens said.
Stephen Mather, for Reilly, said Reilly was a qualified plumber but his work dried up at the start of lockdown last year, he got into financial difficulty then got involved in the jet ski incident.
Reilly told the judge that his decision to get involved was a “lifechanging mistake”.
A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing will take place at a later date.