Following cocaine haul arrests last year, an update from the Serious Organised Crime Agency, in their own words. Ed
Five men who plotted to collect 255kg of high-purity cocaine in the English Channel and import it into the UK were convicted yesterday at Kingston Crown Court and handed prison sentences totalling 104 years.
The gang were caught following an extensive investigation which included surveillance onshore and at sea carried out by several law enforcement agencies.
With accomplices Daniel Payne, Scott Birtwhistle and Croatian Zoran Dresic, lobster fisherman Jamie Green sailed his fishing vessel from Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight into the Channel to retrieve 11 watertight holdalls filled with the drugs. These had been deposited into the water from a container ship, the MSC Oriane, as it travelled en route to Antwerp from Brazil.
Boat tracked by HMC Vigilant
The four then took the fishing boat, Galwad-Y-Mor, to Freshwater Bay off the coast of the Isle of Wight, where it was tracked by UK Border Agency cutter HMC Vigilant and observed manoeuvring erratically before heading back to Yarmouth.
Green, Payne, and Dresic were arrested later that day, 30 May 2010, at which point Dresic produced fraudulent identification in the name of Veljko Protic.
Drugs with £53m street value recovered
The following morning, officers from the joint SOCA-Metropolitan Police Middle Market Drugs Partnership and UK Border Agency recovered the drugs – worth up to £53m on UK streets – after a report from the local coastguard. Hampshire Police officers had also participated in the surveillance operation.
The holdalls had each been tied along a rope in a manner closely resembling that of submerged lobster pots, with a buoy and a makeshift anchor tied to either end to aid its later recovery by the gang.
Subsequent investigation led to the arrest in turn of Birtwhistle and Jonathan Beere, who was in regular telephone contact with Green during the drugs run.
GPS tracking data was used retrospectively to plot the courses of two ships up to the drugs being collected in the early hours of 30 May.
SOCA’s Chris Farrimond said, “This operation has prevented huge amounts of cocaine from reaching the streets of the UK, and demonstrates the strength of collaborative UK agency work to tackle the Class A drugs trade.
“These men believed their meticulously-planned drugs run would look like a commercial fishing expedition. Rather than bringing them massive profits, however, their plan has put them in the same unenviable position as many others who have been caught attempting to traffic drugs under the guise of legitimate business.”
“One step ahead”
DI Robert Boggan, from the Metropolitan Police Service, said, “This gang thought they could get away with bringing hundreds of kilos of high-purity drugs into the UK to make themselves a hefty profit.
“While they believed they had found an innovative way of disguising their ill-gotten gains, we were one-step ahead of them and stopped them before they could cause damage on London’s streets.”
“Stop at nothing to bring them to justice”
Carole Upshall, UK Border Agency director for the South and Europe said, “This case shows the lengths that organised criminals will go to just to bring illegal drugs into the UK. But it also shows how, working together with our law enforcement partners, we will stop at nothing to bring them to justice.
“The UK Border Agency’s fleet of cutters patrol the coast 24 hours a day, 365 days a year playing a key role in helping us to secure the border, stopping prohibited goods and people even before they reach our shores.”
Rucksacks disguised as lobster pots
Senior Crown Prosecutor Ogheneruona Iguyovwe for the CPS Organised Crime Division said, “Lobster fisherman Jamie Green masterminded an audacious plot of disguising over 250kg of cocaine in rucksacks among lobster pots off the Isle of Wight. The prosecution case was that the cocaine was thrown overboard by smugglers from a container vessel MCS Oriane en route from Brazil.
“Green with his co-defendants, Daniel Payne, Zoran Dresic, Scott Birtwistle and Jonathan Beere planned to get the cocaine back to the UK shore by putting it into several rucksacks that were tied to a buoy, in the same way that lobster pots are strung together. The plan was to pick up the drugs as if Green and his accomplices were coming back from a normal lobster fishing expedition.
“This case demonstrates that organised criminals will use whatever techniques they can to try and evade the nets of law enforcement. However, SOCA and CPS worked closely together to bring a strong prosecution case to show how each man was involved in the conspiracy. After hearing the prosecution’s case, the jury was satisfied of each defendant’s guilt and convicted them on all charges of conspiracy to import cocaine.
“We will now apply for their ill gotten gains to be confiscated.”