Racing’s ruling body has responded to the release from jail of the notorious drugs baron Brian Wright with a terse reminder that he remains banned from horse racing. The former head of a huge cocaine smuggling operation, Wright was sentenced to a 30-year term and has now been let out on licence, having served half of it, and is reportedly living in a bail hostel.
Wright exerted a baleful influence on horse racing in the 1980s and 90s, when officials believed he had corrupted a large number of jockeys, fixed races and organised the doping of horses. His release has sparked fears that the 73-year-old may seek to reconnect with former contacts in the sport, prompting the British Horseracing Authority to point out his ban will run longer than his term in prison.
“Mr Wright is currently excluded from all licensed premises, and from being in contact with licensed and registered personnel in connection with racing indefinitely,” a BHA spokesman said. “He may make an application to lift the exclusion order from 1 January 2023 onwards.”
The exclusion order, intended to keep Wright away from racecourses and racing stables, was imposed at the end of 2002, back when the Jockey Club was racing’s regulatory body. Wright was a fugitive in northern Cyprus at the time but was eventually brought to justice in 2007 after two years on remand.
Wright used betting on racing as a means of money-laundering. The former jockey Graham Bradley admitted giving him inside information in exchange for reward. Another ex-jockey, Dermot Browne, admitted doping 23 horses at Wright’s request including Bravefoot, whose defeat attracted immediate suspicion when he finished last of five as favourite for the Champagne Stakes in 1990.
“You were a master criminal, manipulative, influential and powerful,” Judge Peter Moss told Wright when sentencing him at Woolwich crown court in 2007. “I accept that you will be a very much older man when you are entitled to be released. I accept too it is a possibility that you may not live that long.
“Nevertheless, cocaine abuse continues to cause unquantifiable misery to tens of thousands of victims of other crimes committed by those using or seeking to use it … You played for the very highest stakes and won, for a number of years, a luxury lifestyle. You well knew the consequences of detection and conviction.”
The investigation into Wright had begun in 1996, when a yacht was discovered off the coast of Cork with 599kg of cocaine hidden in the dumbwaiter. The drugs had an estimated street value of £80m at the time.