UK/Caribbean: Organised crime network used corrupt baggage handler to smuggle drugs into UK.
Four members of an organised crime network have been sentenced to 22 years in prison for smuggling an estimated £700,000 worth of Class A and Class B drugs into the UK.
David Fox, 65, of Stanley Avenue, Brighton and Stephen Chambers, 45, of Warmdene Road, Brighton attempted to smuggle 4kg of cocaine, which if cut and sold in the UK would have had a potential street value of over £500,000,into Gatwick Airport in September 2012.
Fox, a Gatwick baggage handler at the time, was using his access to the transfer shed area of the airport to remove drugs from suitcases and smuggle them out amongst his own belongings. He also removed baggage labels from innocent peoples’ luggage to re-use them on luggage that contained drugs.
When the rucksack containing the 4kg of cocaine was sent to a different part of the airport, rather than the transfer shed, Fox was unable to retrieve it and it was seized by Border Force officers.
Both men pleaded guilty in the face of overwhelming evidence. Fox had gone in to work on his day off in the hope of retrieving the drugs, and phone evidence showed the men had spoken the night before. Incriminating baggage labels were found at the home address of Fox and in a container rented by Chambers in Lancing, Sussex.
Stephen Chambers was also sentenced today in relation to a separate offence in January 2013, in which he organised the importation of 46kg cannabis into the UK, hidden in a container of fruit that originated in Ghana.
He was assisted by David Rowe, 53, of Overcliff Road, Lewisham, who used his contacts in Ghana to facilitate the importation.
The men were under surveillance by the NCA when the drugs, which had a potential street value of almost £200,000, were intercepted by Border Force officers from a container at Tilbury Docks, Essex on 13 January 2013.
The container was released to Chambers, who was unaware that the drugs had been seized and had arranged for it to be delivered to Circus Street, Brighton on 28 January 2013.
NCA officers then watched Chambers and a third man, Gordon Wilkie, 40, of St. George’s Place, Brighton, unloading the container and discarding the fruit by the side of the road when they eventually realised it was empty of drugs.
Fox, Chambers and Rowe (L to R, from left above) were sentenced at Kingston Crown Court on Friday 04 December to 4, 12, and 3.5 years respectively. Wilkie (far right) was sentenced alongside them to 30 months in prison
Fox is currently serving a 10 year sentence for attempting to import 12kg of cocaine into Gatwick Airport in May 2013 and a further 5kg in June 2013. He will serve his 4 year sentence consecutively and will therefore serve a total of 14 years in prison.
Brendan Foreman, the NCA’s regional head of investigations, said:
“These men thought they could operate under the law enforcement radar and profit from their criminal activities – like many before them, they were wrong.
“One of them cynically abused his trusted position as an airport worker to import large amounts of class A drugs.
“The NCA will continue to work with Border Force and other partners to help strengthen the border and to stop illegal drugs getting into the UK. Those who choose the criminal route will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
Mark Kennedy, Assistant Director, Border Force Central Region, said:
“Border Force officers are on the frontline in the fight against drug traffickers at both ports and airports. We will continue to work alongside the police and National Crime Agency to disrupt the activities of criminals and put them before the courts.”
More information available at:
Court news UK: http://www.courtnewsuk.co.uk/?news_id=35486
Sources: Court News UK & National Crime Agency.
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