A man who was involved in the importation of millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the UK hidden inside a fruit container has been convicted, following an investigation by the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit.
Marius Molla, aged 31, of no fixed abode, was today (8/2) found guilty by jury of conspiring to evade a prohibition on importation, following a trial at Salisbury Crown Court.
On 1 December 2020 police and Border Force officials searched a container, said to contain limes, at Southampton Docks, after it had arrived from Brazil. They removed pallets of limes but also found hidden packages behind a panel inside the refrigeration unit, which they seized.
Subsequent testing found the substance to be cocaine hydrochloride with a street value of £3 million. The court heard that three days later on 4 December, officers observed the delivery of the container to a fruit compound in Waltham Abbey, Essex, which had been arranged by a haulier. CCTV footage captured Molla arriving at the premises shortly after the lorry’s arrival.
He was arrested at the warehouse and police uncovered an automatic 9mm CZ type pistol along with ammunition in a Gucci bag which had been found close to him. He was charged in connection with the offences on 5 December.
Molla was convicted of possessing a prohibited firearm and possessing ammunition without a firearms certificate at a previous trial at Southampton Crown Court which concluded on 16 July last year.
Today Molla was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment for the drug importation offence and seven years’ imprisonment for the firearm offence, which will run consecutively. For the ammunition offence, he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment concurrently, making a total sentence of 18 years’ imprisonment.
Investigating officer Detective Constable Adam Knight, from SEROCU, said: “Molla was involved in bringing millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the UK which would have inevitably found its way on to our streets and caused significant harm to those whose lives are already blighted by drug addiction within the communities of the South East .
“When police officers entered the warehouse to arrest Molla, they discovered he had a prohibited firearm and ammunition next to him. This is a stark reminder of the lengths those involved in this level of criminality are prepared to go to avoid having their crimes uncovered.
“This attempt to conceal the drugs in a refrigeration unit inside a container of limes was foiled by SEROCU, working together with Border Force and the National Crime Agency. This collaboration undoubtedly resulted in us finding the offender and ultimately led to him being convicted for his part in this crime.”