Four men have been jailed for a total of 92 years for trying to smuggle half a tonne of cocaine into the UK via Farnborough Airport in Hampshire.
The group hired a private jet to try and bring the drugs in from Colombia in January 2018, but they were caught out by UK Border Force officials.
Today following a four week trial at Woolwich Crown Court, a jury found the four men guilty of the importation of class A drugs.
Martin James Neil, 49, Alessandro Iembo, 28, both from Bournemouth and Spanish national, Victor Franco-Lorenzo, 40, were sentenced to 24 years each.
Jose Ramon Migueles-Botas, 56, also a Spanish national was sentenced to 20 years.|
A fifth man, who was also on trial - Stephen Neil, brother of Martin - was found not guilty.
The cocaine, which was 79% pure, had a wholesale value of £15,390,000 and an estimated street value of £41,040,000.
The seizure sparked an NCA investigation into the crime group and a parallel investigation in Colombia, where a further five people were arrested.
(Above: Some of the cocaine found by UK Border Force officials - picture issued by the National Crime Agency)
Ian Truby from the National Crime Agency said:
“These men deviated from their seemingly normal lives as bricklayers and waiters to play high-flying businessmen, using luxury cars, hotels and even a private jet to try and pull off a plot they thought would make them millions.
“Although this was not a particularly sophisticated smuggling attempt it clearly had significant financial backing. The loss of profit that would have been made from this seizure will be a huge hit to the wider criminal networks involved.
“Some, if not all, of these drugs were destined to be sold here in the UK by gangs who enforce control using violence, intimidation and exploitation.
“This group had no thought for the damage their actions would cause and even pretended they made the trip to carry out charity work.
“This was undoubtedly a significant seizure made by our Border Force colleagues. Together, we work tirelessly to protect the integrity of the UK border, targeting those who seek to exploit perceived vulnerabilities and bring them to justice.”
Deputy Director Monique Wrench, from Border Force Heathrow’s Crime Command, said:
“This was a major detection by expert Border Force officers, taking a huge quantity of Class A drugs out of circulation and keeping them off the streets of the UK.
“Border Force’s intervention was the crucial first step that led ultimately to these four convictions at Woolwich Crown Court.
“The seizure is testament to the success of the intelligence-led, targeted approach that Border Force takes to its customs responsibilities.”