A top horse showjumper’s father has been found guilty of smuggling £4 million ($5.7 million) of cocaine into Britain inside a horsebox to fund his daughter’s career, according to Kent Online, citing court proceedings.
International horse showjumping contestant Jody Van Gerwen, 27, reportedly wept in court as her 52-year-old father Mari Van Gerwen was ordered to serve a prison term of 17 years.
The accused, a horse dealer and former showjumper from the Netherlands, brought the Class A drug into the UK allegedly in order to help his daughter in her career, the court heard.
The man’s defense team claimed he had been forced by drug dealers to smuggle the cocaine into the country.
But Judge Rupert Lowe of the Canterbury Crown Court believed Van Gerwen was in it for the money.
“I accept you run a legitimate horse trading business and you spend a good deal of your time running a riding school and assisting your daughter’s career,” Lowe told the court.
“You were convicted by a jury in a very short space of time of importing 50 kilos of cocaine,” he said. “I am confident that you were not the boss of this enterprise but a courier and you got involved in order to make money.”
In July last year, Van Gerwen tried to bring into the UK two horses in a horsebox. He told border officials that the horses were for a recipient inside the UK and he was discovered to have 5,000 euros in cash on his person. Suspicious, the officials searched the horse trailer, only to discover in a special compartment 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of cocaine.
The reported street value is £3.96 million ($5.64 million).
Van Gerwen was found guilty on Wednesday, Jan. 24, of importing class A drugs and jailed for 17 years.
The judge said that he believed Van Gerwen was motivated by a wish to help his daughter in her showjumping career.
“This trial took place against a background of the very successful career of your daughter Jody as an international showjumper,” Judge Lowe told the court.
“That is an extremely expensive occupation, notwithstanding the sponsorship and prize money and the returns of the rising school and horse-trading business. I am confident that at least part of your motivation of you becoming involved was to further the cause of her very expensive career at the highest level,” said the judge.
Present in court was Jody Van Gerwen, who testified on behalf of the defense. She heard the judge say that he believed she was unaware of her father’s drug dealing.
“I don’t imagine for a moment that he let her know what he was doing. She has been an innocent victim and she will suffer for this,” Lower said.
After the hearing a representative of the National Crime Agency said, “The organised criminals involved in the distribution of cocaine are often also linked to violence and exploitation,” the Daily Mail reported, citing senior investigating officer Darren Herbert.
“They rely heavily on smugglers like Van Gerwen, so his was a key role in a longer, damaging chain. We work closely with partners overseas and our Border Force colleagues to target those who seek to undermine the security of the UK border, and bring them to justice,” he said.