Customs officers hail long sentences
FOUR drug smugglers who tried to bring almost £1 million of cocaine through East Anglia today starting long prison sentences.Customs officials said the prison sentences, which totalled 56 years, should act as a deterrent to anyone trying to smuggle drugs through the region.
FOUR drug smugglers who tried to bring almost £1 million of cocaine through East Anglia today starting long prison sentences.
Customs officials said the prison sentences, which totalled 56 years, should act as a deterrent to anyone trying to smuggle drugs through the region.
Colombian Jorge Gomez and Indonesians Richard Bernardus, Isitiyarto Iskander and Yayang Mardianus were convicted at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday of smuggling 7.04kg of pure cocaine through the Port of Felixstowe in August.
They had all denied a charge of being knowingly concerned in the importation of controlled drugs and were each sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Speaking after the case, Customs spokesman John Barber said: "These drugs had come the direct route from Colombia, being given to the crew, who were told that someone would come to take them off them somewhere in Europe.
"The smuggling of class A drugs remains a top priority for Customs and Excise and the long sentences given out should be a major deterrent to other potential smugglers.
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"When people see the sentence being meted out, hopefully that will act as a deterrent and the judiciary are playing their part in the process as well."
He added: "Certainly, 14 years is a long time, but from our point of view, it is good to get the convictions as it might stop other people getting involved in this sort of business.
"Felixstowe, being the biggest container port, means it will always be that people will try to bring drugs through there.
"This has been good because it stops the flow of drugs through Suffolk and into other parts of the country where the drugs problem is more endemic than it is here."
Jailing the four, Judge John Holt said Gomez, 30, of Crofter's Way, Camden Town, London, Bernardus, 27, Iskander, 37, and Mardianus, 45, were all couriers who had smuggled the cocaine from Colombia for profit.
The court heard Gomez had been arrested last August after he had boarded and then left the container ship Nedlloyd Clement after it had docked at Felixstowe on a routine voyage.
He had gone on board the vessel and been given a specially-manufactured black vest by the crew members. It had been made to go under outer clothing and the drugs were concealed in special pockets.
Customs officers at Felixstowe searched Gomez as he left the container ship after they became suspicious that he looked bulkier than he had earlier.
Gomez told the jury he hated drugs, had never used drugs of any kind and had been horrified when he had been asked to help smuggle drugs into the UK.
He claimed he had been working as a courier in London when he had been asked by a man to do some work that involved drugs and had been warned the lives of his relatives in Colombia would be in danger if he did not do as he was told.
Iskandar said when he had seen Gomez being arrested as he had left the boat, he had thrown the packages containing the money for the drugs overboard.
All the men, apart from Bernardus, claimed they had been acting under duress. Bernardus claimed he had not known the drugs were in the vests.
The jury failed to reach a verdict on a fifth man Colombian Xavier Bermudez-Botero, 28, from Camden Town, London, who had denied the charge.