A fugitive drug lord David McDermott, who is the in-law of Ghana’s former governor of the Central Bank Henry Wampah, has been jailed 13 years for smuggling 400 kilos of cocaine into the UK in frozen Argentinian beef.
McDermott married the daughter of the governor and was described by the Western media as someone who “enjoyed a life of luxury during three years on the run”.
The 43-year-old was arrested sometime in 2016 in Accra in an operation led by the National Crime Agency and Ghanaian authorities.
“This case arises of a plan to import a massive quantity of cocaine of high purity from South America.
“It was a plan that very nearly succeeded. The value was enormous and the impact would have been enormous had the drugs reached the streets,” the Liverpool Echo quoted Judge Alan Conrad.
McDermott was part of a Liverpool-based gang who imported the super strength cocaine, worth up to £70m, hidden among meat from Buenos Aires.
Liverpool Crown Court heard Border Force officers intercepted some 16 holdalls full of the 79% pure drug on May 3, 2013 at Tilbury Docks in Essex.
William Baker, prosecuting, said 79% pure cocaine was “about the highest purity which cocaine can be produced.”
He said the shipping container was only inspected “by chance” because of an E. coli problem at the Argentinian meat factory.
Officers removed the 400 blocks with the logo “Burro” – Spanish for donkey – on the side and replaced them with dummy bricks.
The load was then delivered as planned to Wigan’s Cold Storage Ltd, where it was collected by courier James Mossman, 40, of Delaware Road, Kirkby.
Mossman – jailed for seven years and four months – collected two holdalls but abandoned them when he realised the drugs were gone.
Mr Baker said the gang, who had no idea the authorities were involved at this stage, met at the KFC restaurant at Aintree Retail Park.
Anthony Short, 42, of Croston, Lancashire, who bought the cover load of beef and was jailed for 22 years, was in regular contact with McDermott.
They thought the owner of Cold Storage might have stolen the stash and discussed threatening his family and burning down their home.
Mr Baker said the cocaine had a wholesale value of £19.5m, but if cut to street level purity, would have been worth some £70m.
He said: “My understanding is it’s the largest seizure in the North West of this drug.”
McDermott admitted his role in the conspiracy on the basis he would receive 50kgs of the drug.
His previous convictions include possessing cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine.
Damien Nolan, defending, said his client only dealt with Short and was not at the top of the plot.
He said he had four children in the UK, who he brought up on his own, as their mum was not involved for personal reasons.
Mr Nolan said McDermott also had a wife and two children in Ghana, the youngest of whom is six-months-old and he has never met.
He said: “They have not been able to visit. It has been a very difficult experience for him in custody.”
The lawyer said hard-working McDermott “had a complete change in lifestyle” and had been involved with the church in Africa.
Mr Nolan added his client had been diagnosed with an “aggressive form” of the debilitating illness Crohn’s Disease.
After McDermott’s arrest, the Daily Mirror revealed he had married Ramona Wampah, daughter of the Governor of the Central Bank, Dr Henry Kofi Wampah.
A source said: “He had what seemed to be an idyllic life, in a plush estate, having married into the Wampah family, in essence living like an African king.
“He and Ramona lived under the radar with their toddler.”
Mr Wampah denied knowing his son-in-law was a British fugitive, saying he thought he was just a mining sector worker.
Source: Ghana/Starrfmonline.com/103.5FM/with additional files from Liverpool Echo