A GANG who used two baggage handlers to smuggle at least £32million of cocaine into the UK have been jailed.
Drug-laden suitcases arrived at Heathrow Terminal 5 from Brazil and were moved from the international arrivals carousel to the domestic arrivals hall to avoid security checks.
On six occasions over 15 months the National Crime Agency intercepted a total of 100 kilos of cocaine, with an average of 78.5 per cent purity and a street value of £16million. But there would have been times the drugs were successfully smuggled.
Judge Michael Hopmeier told London’s Southwark crown court the street value in this case is at least £32million, but the precise figure ‘will never be known and may be academic’.
He told 11 members of the gang, who faced various charges of conspiracy to import cocaine and cannabis between September 2015 and December 2016, they had each acted solely for financial gain in a ‘highly organised’ and ‘long-standing professional conspiracy’. Corrupt air staff in Brazil loaded bricks of cocaine onto flights and workers in the UK were sent photographs and descriptions of the bags to be taken off the international arrivals carousel. Couriers would receive a text with a photo of the bags to pick up, said the NCA.
Baggage handler Joysen Jhurry, 41, of Banstead, Surrey, who had a ‘vital’ role, was jailed for 16 years for conspiring to import cocaine and cannabis.
Mohammad Ali, 42, of Slough, Berkshire — another baggage handler who was described as Jhurry’s ‘lieutenant at Heathrow’ — was sentenced to 15 years for conspiracy to import cocaine.
Michael Sutherland, 48, of South Norwood, got 20 years for conspiracy to import cocaine and possession of crack cocaine with intent to supply.
A spokesman for the National Crime Agency said: ‘This kind of corruption threatens the security of the UK border and the public.’