Byline: COLIN ADAMSON
A BRITISH lawyer and former international hockey player nicknamed " Champagne Jimmy" was jailed for life today after being convicted of smuggling pound sterling5 million of ecstasy tablets into Australia hidden in a shipment of red wine.
James Neale, 57, from Colchester, was described by a New South Wales judge as the " intelligent, manipulative and calcul ating" master mind of Australia's biggest drug shipment.
Prosecutors said 270,000 ecstasy tablets were discovered by customs officers hidden in the bottom of 20 cases of wine from France.
Neale claimed Hong Kong triad gangs forced him to go along with the drug smuggling.
But District Court Judge Penelope Hock believed he was the main driving force and ordered him to serve a minimum of 21 years before becoming eligible for parole.
Neale played hockey for England 42 times in the Seventies and Eighties and used to be married to former beauty queen Rosemary Neale who was killed by their 21-year-old mentally deranged son Jonathan three years ago.
Neale earned his nickname for turning up at hockey matches with a case of MoIt et Chandon in the boot of his sports car.
Neale was also at the centre of England's biggest law firm collapse.
He was jailed for three years at the Old Bailey in 1986 and banned from practising as a solicitor after stealing more than pound sterling1million from client accounts to fund a fraud involving scores of expensive cars.
His Colchester law practice crashed with debts of pound sterling1.3 million and the Law Society was forced to bail out his clients.
His second wife Rosemary, a former Miss Great Britain finalist and a millionaire's daughter, stood by him. …