Nearly one Tonne of cocaine worth £31 million (wholesale) was found hidden at a warehouse in a police force’s biggest ever haul of Class A drugs. Three men and a woman were arrested when officers swooped at the depot in Brackmills Industrial Estate, Northampton, last week. Cops were responding to reports of a theft from a delivery lorry when they made the shocking discovery.
Holdalls filled with blocks of cocaine were first uncovered, followed by an abandoned van containing bags full of drugs. In total, 18 holdalls containing 780kg of cocaine, with a street value of £78 million, were seized. Detective Superintendent Emma James said: ‘This is the biggest seizure of Class A drugs by Northamptonshire Police. In total police recovered 780kg of cocaine which, following forensic analysis, has been moved out of the county.
This was a large-scale transportation of Class A drugs and our investigation will be looking at who was responsible for bringing it into Northamptonshire and what their plans were for distributing it. Tackling serious organised crime is a matter of priority for us in Northamptonshire. ‘People may think that buying cocaine for a night out isn’t an issue, but the organised crime gangs involved in distributing Class A drugs are often also responsible for other forms of criminality, such as modern slavery and the coercion of vulnerable people to house and deal drugs, violence and firearms offences.’ The four people arrested were released on bail, pending further enquiries.
In a similar style import 2 years ago but instead using fish to disguise the drugs, two brothers today have been jailed for their involvement. Two brothers have been arrested and charged by National Crime Agency officers in connection with a seizure of almost 100 kilos of cocaine at Newhaven port in East Sussex two years ago. After being charged with conspiring to import class A drugs, they both appeared before Uxbridge Magistrates yesterday (3 December). They will both now appear at Isleworth Crown Court on a later date to be confirmed.
Michael Keating was also charged with possessing criminal property, in connection with a sum of cash estimated to be around £100,000 found by NCA officers during a search of his home address. The NCA investigation follows the seizure of cocaine with a potential street value of up to £10 million at Newhaven in November 2019. It was found by Border Force staff in the rear of a refrigerated van carrying frozen fish. Three other people have already been charged in connection with the case and await trial. James Satterley, 50, of Kings Lane, Cookham, Maidenhead, was charged with importing class A drugs following the mammoth discovery last month.
He appeared at Lewes Crown Court in 2019 after being remanded in custody. A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed he pleaded not guilty to the charge against him. A trial date had been set for April 27, 2020, at Lewes Crown Court, she said. NCA senior investigating officer Martin Matthews said: “It has been a long and complex investigation, but clearly these arrests and charges are an important step. “This was a significant seizure of cocaine which, had it not been stopped, would have ended up in the hands of gangs involved in street violence and exploitation. “Working with our law enforcement colleagues we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle the criminal networks involved in transporting class A drugs into the UK.”
Party fuel tank
In another example of smaller loads being imported into the UK via simpler methods, a driver who removed his van’s fuel tank to pack it with 32 kilos of cocaine has been jailed for nine years and nine months. Ion Cazac, 40, from Romania, was investigated by the National Crime Agency after his vehicle was stopped at Dover Eastern Docks on 22 October 2020. Border Force officials stopped Cazac as it appeared the fuel tank on his vehicle had recently been removed. When the tank was opened, 32 packages were found inside.
These were tested and found to be cocaine. NCA experts found the drugs had a purity ranging from 61 per cent to 80 per cent and would have had an estimated street value of £2.5 million. When Cazac was interviewed by NCA officers, he denied all knowledge of the drugs, stating he had picked up a load before receiving a call from another driver asking him to stop at a hotel. He alleged that when he went to refuel after the stop, the gauge only registered half a tank and he didn’t know why. NCA investigators found that the vehicle fuel tank had been changed for a larger tank and was not the size in place on the original factory build or customer order.
Cazac then changed his story and pleaded guilty to being involved in the importation of a controlled drug at Canterbury Crown Court on 22 November. He was sentenced to nine years and nine months in prison at the same court today (3 December). Mark Howes, Branch Commander at the NCA, said: “These drugs would have put millions of pounds back into the hands of the criminals who would have invested it back into further criminality. “The NCA works closely with partners, including Border Force, to find drug smugglers who attempt to bring drugs over our borders to the streets of the UK.”