A Croydon woman and a Lewisham man have been jailed for a total of 13 years for their part in a plot to smuggle £400,000 of cocaine into Gatwick airport hidden in tins of vegetables.
Sharon Dixon, 52, of Whitehorse Lane, South Norwood, was sentenced to nine years at Kingston Crown Court this week, while Lawrence French, 57, of Eddystone Road, Brockley, received four years and four months. Dixon had previously been given a ten year sentence in 1996 after she was caught with three kilos of the drug at Stansted airport.
The court was told that Dixon attempted to hide the latest consignment in tins of Jamaican Pride Callaloo which were collected by an accomplice at Gatwick Airport after she flew in from Montego Bay. She was the only one of seven defendants to deny the offence throughout her trial which ended on July 18.
French, of Brockley helped plan the operation and had attempted a similar smuggling operation at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. He flew to the Netherlands to help out, but Eileen Adams, 56, of Lime Grove, Seaforth, Liverpool, who was supposed to pick up the bag at the airport lost her nerve when she could not see it. She grabbed some other luggage from an adjoining carousel and was arrested for theft.
In total, the gang was jailed for 44 years for attempting to import more than a million pounds worth of Class A drugs into the UK.
The plot depended on Derek Giles, 56, of of Anerley Road, Penge, a crooked baggage handler at Gatwick airport who would have access to Dixon’s luggage. He picked up the cocaine from her suitcase when it was in transit through Gatwick as Dixon flew on to Porto, Portugal. Giles took the drugs to his home in Penge on September 19 where another defendant, Glenroy Williams, 51, of Amesbury Avenue, Brixton, hid them in a rucksack.
When the tins, marked “Jamaican Pride Callaloo hand chopped in brine”, were found and opened by detectives who raided Williams’ address they were packed with white powder. Dixon denied conspiracy to import Class A controlled drugs but was convicted by the jury. French pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to import Class A controlled drugs.
Detective Inspector Jerry Troon from the Met Police’s Specialist Economic and Organised Crime Command said: “This investigation shows that we will seek anyone actively involved in the drugs trade and use all the powers available to us to combat it. “The message is clear – if you deal in drugs we will find you, we will arrest you and you will be put in front of the courts to face the consequences of your actions.” The gang was involved in a previous attempt to smuggle cocaine through Gatwick which failed when one of the traffickers panicked at the airport. Williams was sentenced to 11 years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to import Class A controlled drugs and possession of a stun gun. Giles, was sentenced to seven years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to import Class A controlled drugs. Craig Accra, 34 of Longstone Walk, Liverpool was sentenced to six years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to import Class A controlled drugs. Lee Kent, 36 of Rosalind Way, Liverpool, was sentenced to five years and eight months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to import Class A controlled drugs. Eileen Adams, was sentenced to eight months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to import Class A controlled drugs. Detective Superintendent Jason Hudson, head of operations at Titan, the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, said: “This was a sophisticated gang with influences in several major UK cities as well as criminal contacts abroad. The ringleaders devised a ploy whereby they used couriers to make several flights during the importing of the drugs to ensure their bags remained ‘in transfer’.” “They thought this would avoid detection but clearly they were wrong and law enforcement agencies became wise to their intentions at an early stage. Once we knew about all the people involved they were systematically arrested and incriminating evidence was found. The fact that all but one pleaded guilty showed the overwhelming evidence against them.”