Two prominent motorsport figures - BTCC team boss Vic Lee and corporate entertainment promoter Gerry Mahony - were among four men who pleaded guilty to drug trafficking offences that led to combined prison sentences exceeding 38 years.

Lee, the managing director of Vic Lee Racing Ltd, was arrested in possession of 19kgs of cocaine, with a street value of ?1.7million, after HM Revenue & Customs officers tailed him to the Holiday Inn in High Wycombe and pounced on what appeared to be a transaction involving all four men sentenced at Southwark Crown Court today [Friday].

Lee, the alleged organiser, had ?19,000 cash in his vehicle at the time of his arrest and, with a previous conviction for importing cocaine -some 41kg worth ?6million in 1993 - received a twelve-year prison sentence. His assets, and those of Mahony, have been restrained and confiscation proceedings will follow. Mahony received eleven years for his part in the deal.

Nicolas Atkins and Jonathon Wheatley were the other defendants named in the case, after the latter's home address was searched and a quantity of cocaine, with a street value of ?5,000 was seized, along with ?54,000 in cash. Wheatley received a total of nine years, while Atkins was sentenced to six-and-a-half years.

All four defendants pleaded guilty to drug trafficking offences on 17 June 2005. In addition, Lee and Wheatley also pleaded guilty to offences contrary to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. On 15 July 2005, an Order was granted for forfeiture of ?73,230 in accordance with the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

"This case is a significant success for Customs, not only in terms of the seizure of a large quantity of cocaine, but also in that a criminal organisation, heavily involved in Class A drug trafficking, has been dismantled," HMRC assistant chief investigation officer Chris Thompson said, "The fact that we are dealing with serious and determined criminality is evidenced by the fact that Lee was sentenced to twelve years imprisonment in connection with the importation of 41kgs of cocaine in 1993.

"The driving factor behind criminal involvement in drug trafficking is money. Therefore, it is particularly satisfying that, in this case, we have seized in excess of ?70,000 from these defendants. Confiscation proceedings have been initiated in this case and are on-going.

"The severity of the sentences handed down today should send out a clear warning to those who attempt to deal in Class A drugs in the UK. HM Revenue & Customs will continue to work at the forefront of the fight to stop drug trafficking in the UK, and to reduce the associated harm to our communities."

Customs Officers still wish to speak to a fifth man, Terence Daniel Agombar, in connection with the case.



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