A DRUG baron behind a £140million cocaine smuggling operation, which saw three Torbay men jailed for 10 years each in Ireland, has been locked up for 28 years.
John Alan Brooks will be an old man when he sees the light of day again after being sentenced for three decades by a British court for masterminding one of the largest international drug importation rings in the UK.
The 61-year-old was tracked to a villa near Marbella in Southern Spain after a scrap of paper with a phone number belonging to him was discovered on board the 65ft Dances with Waves yacht off the coast of Ireland four years ago.
During the raid by Eire police and navy, Philip Doo, 55, of High Manor Road, Brixham, David Mufford, 48, of Clennon Lane, Torquay, and Christopher Wiggins, 46, of Malaga, Spain, were arrested.
Also on board were 75 bales of cocaine weighing 1.5 tons. The final port of call for this consignment was to be Britain's streets.
The cocaine, which had been injected with moisture to allow it to be better compacted, was said to be very pure — up to 76 per cent (the average street purity is about 30 per cent) — and was later estimated to have a street value of £140million.
The three Torbay men were sentenced in an Irish court to 10 years behind bars each in 2009.
But it took investigating teams from the Irish Joint Task Force on Drug Interdiction, the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency and police in Spain and Portugal many years to track down Brooks.
At the time of the raid on the Dances With Waves yacht, the three Bay men had travelled to Trinidad and Tobago, via Spain and Venezuela, where Doo purchased Dances With Waves with a false Irish passport four months earlier.
Doo, a failed property developer and father-of-six, and Wiggins, who lived on the Costa del Sol, were former brothers-in-law, and both knew supermarket worker Mufford.
A lead SOCA investigator on the case said: "With this scrap of paper and telephone number we were handed the pieces of a jigsaw. Now we had to pull the pieces together and build up a picture of the conspiracy, and with that reveal just who Colin or Bob, which was the name on the boat log and scrap of paper, was."
After a painstaking investigation the true identity of Brooks was revealed and police started their hunt.
The SOCA investigator said: "When we began to scratch beneath the surface of his multiple false identities, a startling picture began to emerge of John Alan Brooks."
The son of a successful Blackpool coal merchant, Brooks enjoyed a childhood of comparative affluence and went on to develop a serious taste for the high life.
Although he left school with few qualifications, Brooks soon found his feet as a second-hand car salesman, building up a business in his home town.
Then in around 1984 he joined the first wave of Brits to move out to southern Spain, landing in the gangster's paradise of Puerto Banus, close to Marbella.
He was arrested and sent to prison on several occasions for drug trafficking including four years in Spain and 13 years in absentia in 1996 in France for conspiring to import 4.2 tons of cannabis and sentenced to 13 years.
After his latest escape from Morocco back to Spain, Brooks settled back into life in his luxurious villa outside Marbella.
But the phone number found onboard the Dances with Waves led investigators to his luxury villa.
The investigator said: "We knew the cell mast where the calls from the Spanish mobile number were received and sent from.
"We stood outside Brooks's house and we could see that the calls were bouncing off that mast."
SOCA applied for a European Arrest Warrant, but crucially they also watched to see if Brooks made any credit-card transactions. They had some luck in October last year when he swiped his credit card at the Marriott Grand Residences in London.
Although the police and SOCA missed him while he was in the capital, they then raided his brother Fred's house in Blackpool and found Brooks with his girlfriend and child in tow.
Brooks was finally convicted of plotting to smuggle cocaine into the UK at Birmingham Crown Court and sentenced to 28 years in prison.
SOCA investigators are now looking to strip Brooks of his assets.