Pubdate: Sun, 16 Jun 2002
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Contact:  2002 The Observer
Author: Tony Thompson, crime correspondent 
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


He is the mastermind behind a global drug smuggling enterprise worth
hundreds of millions of pounds, has been linked to several gangland murders
and is responsible for nobbling hundreds of horse races in the past decade. 

But Brian Brendan Wright remains at liberty - and it is almost impossible to
find anyone to say a bad word about him. Customs officers say Wright managed
to dupe many celebrities and sports people so thoroughly that they are
unwilling to admit they could have been so wrong about him. 

Last week the last of 16 members of Wright's gang, which included his son,
was sentenced for his part in an operation which saw thousands of kilos of
cocaine smuggled into Britain over three years. 

Wright, nicknamed The Milkman by criminal associates because 'he always
delivered', lived a flamboyant lifestyle. He mixed with the rich and famous
and travelled the world posing as a wealthy horse racing fan. 

The former borstal boy, who is almost illiterate, had his own box at Royal
Ascot, owned a plush villa in Spain's Sotto Grande and rented several
riverside apartments in central London. When the rest of his gang was
rounded up in a massive police and customs operation, Wright fled to North
Cyprus - which has no extradition treaty with Britain - and set up home in a
luxury villa. 

His friends included Clint Eastwood, Jerry Hall, Frank Sinatra and leading
jockey John Francome. He is also godfather to the son of comic Jim Davidson. 

Many of these high-profile associates supported Wright during the series of
trials connected to the gang. 

Davidson told the court: 'I still count myself as a good friend of Brian's.
I have known him very well for 19 or 20 years.' Davidson said the suggestion
that Wright was involved in drug trafficking was 'laughable'. 

Former National Hunt jockey Graham Bradley described Wright as one of his
'very best' friends. Bradley, who faces an investigation by the Jockey Club
after admitting he had taken part in betting scams, said: 'Like any
professional gambler who is being honest, Brian will admit that he has his
contacts and I was one. But the kind of money he was having on was always
going to make people put two and two together and get six. When there was a
breath of scandal within racing there was only one name that comes up: Brian

'One mistake he has made is being a success at gambling because that
jealously eats away at many people. Brian has never been shy of using his
money for pleasure as well as punting.' 

But authorities say Wright's made his money from drug trafficking and used
his gambling habit as a cover to help launder the cash. He had supply
networks in Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and Panama, and shipped cocaine across
the Atlantic. The drugs were then transferred to locally-registered boats
off the British coast to avoid unwanted attention from customs officials.
Wright controlled the shipments from his villa in Spain, but made frequent
trips to Britain to oversee the operation. 

The gang is thought to have laundered millions of pounds earned this way
through betting rings. 

It was also claimed yesterday that Wright was behind a series of dopings on
British racetracks in 1990. The Jockey Club kept a file on him, which it
gave to the police before Wright was questioned about alleged doping and
race fixing in 1998. He was released without charge. 

There were also claims gang members received illegal tips from racing

As well as celebrities and champion jockeys, Wright was closely associated
with several notorious gangsters, including drugs boss Roy Adkins and Great
Train Robber Charlie Wilson.
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