Two men have been jailed after a National Crime Agency surveillance operation led to the seizure of almost two kilos of cocaine at Gatwick airport railway station.
A National Crime Agency (NCA) statement says that acting on intelligence, NCA investigators, working in co-operation with Border Force staff, trailed Orville Campbell, 50, and Hugh Barrington Wilson, 60, as they stepped off a flight from St Lucia on 12 July 2016.
The two men stayed apart as they went through the airport, but reunited at the station.
Officers moved in to arrest the pair before they could board a train, as they queued to buy tickets. They found the drugs in a concealed compartment in a suitcase carried by Wilson.
The cocaine, which was 53 per cent pure, had a wholesale value to organised crime of around £66,000, but if cut and sold in the UK it would have had a potential street value of more than £180,000.
In interview after his arrest Wilson admitted that he worked as a private security guard at a crown court in London. This was backed up by an identity card found in his possession.
Both men gave false London addresses to officers, Campbell claiming to live in Edmonton, Wilson in Canning Town.
They initially denied knowledge of the drugs having been in the case, but following a three week trial at Croydon Crown Court both were found guilty of importing class A drugs.
On Friday (March 24) Campbell was sentenced to nine years in prison, Wilson got seven years.
Steve McIntyre, from the NCA’s Border Policing Command, said: “Our surveillance operation led to the arrest and conviction of two men who were key links in the chain of drug supply.
“Cocaine fuels organised crime, violence and exploitation on the streets of the UK.
“In preventing this consignment from making it to the streets we have prevented further criminality and taken the opportunity for further profit away from those involved.”
Sue Young, Border Force South Director, said: “When the men passed through border control they must have thought their smuggling attempt had succeeded, but they were unaware that we were one step ahead of them.
“Border Force officers had already checked Wilson’s suitcase and confirmed the presence of cocaine. Armed with that knowledge, the NCA investigators were able to wait until the pair reunited at the station before making their arrests.
“This case is testament to the close working relationship between Border Force and the NCA which is crucial in bringing offenders to justice.”