Gang members who used furniture removal vans to import Class A drugs into the UK have been convicted
Members of an organised gang have been convicted for conspiring together to bring millions of pounds worth of illegal drugs hidden among bananas and furniture into the UK.
James Jenkins, 25, Humayan Sadiq, 43, and Connor Fletcher, 25, have been found guilty following a trial at Birmingham Crown Court today (19 May 2023) for conspiring to import drugs.
Jonathan Arnold, 29, who played a leading role in the operation, pleaded guilty prior to the trial to three counts of conspiring to import drugs and one count of conspiring to supply Class A drugs.
The CPS authorised charges against the defendants and prepared the case for court following a thorough investigation by the West Midlands Police Regional Organised Crime Unit and the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Arnold used the guise of his removal business vehicles to collect and transfer the illicit drugs to other Organised Crime Groups for onward distribution.
Jenkins assisted Arnold in helping to arrange drivers and acted as a supervisor for the operation, whilst Fletcher was employed as a driver.
Vehicles were loaded with furniture behind which the drugs were concealed. This was intended to provide a cover story to border officials if stopped and the vehicle searched.
In April 2022, Arnold was involved in a conspiracy to supply 1477.2 kilos of cocaine, with a street value of approximately £118 million. The drugs had been hidden inside pallets of bananas on board of a ship from Colombia.
The shipment of drugs was destined to arrive via Portsmouth, however, during a planned stop in the Netherlands, the Class A drugs were seized by Dutch Police who informed the UK authorities.
Sadiq was also involved in this having waited outside Portsmouth docks in a car for an unauthorised HGV to enter to collect the drugs from the port and then followed the HGV to a motorway services station north of Winchester. Arnold and others then took over control of the movement of the drugs by road to premises rented by Arnold in Staffordshire.
In June 2022, Fletcher was arrested on his return to Dover from Calais after Border Force discovered 60kg of cocaine concealed within two hides in the lorry he was driving.
Tim Burton, Specialist Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “This was a sophisticated criminal operation and the amount of drugs this gang was attempting to import into the country was colossal.
“These drugs were intended to be put into the hands of other crime groups. Had everyone involved in this criminal activity been successful, millions of pounds worth of drugs could have ended up on the streets of UK towns and cities causing public harm.
“The CPS worked closely with the NCA and West Midlands Police Regional Organised Crime Unit to build a strong case resulting in their conviction, disrupting the trafficking of drugs into the country.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Jenny Skyrme, head of the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit, said: “We can’t underestimate the scale and significance of this criminal organisation. This is the biggest drugs case that we have ever dealt with as an organisation.
“The gang was operating at the highest levels of criminality, bringing in industrial quantities of drugs to sell on the streets of the West Midlands and beyond.
“As the head of the crime group, Jonathan Arnold enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, driving luxury cars and enjoying trips to Dubai.
“He gave the impression that he was a legitimate businessman with a small firm which moved furniture and had a turnover of £50,000 a month.
“The reality was that he was arranging tens of millions of pounds worth of drugs to be imported into the UK from Europe and South America, which would have gone on to cause untold misery and significant harm to communities.
“We were able to build a really detailed picture of this operation through mobile phone analysis, CCTV and other intelligence.
“Working with the National Crime Agency, Border Force, and law enforcement abroad, we’ve been able to put the gang behind bars where they will spend many years.”
The men will appear again at Birmingham Crown Court for sentencing on 27 July 2023.
Notes to editors
- Jonathan Arnold (DOB: 28/07/93) pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiring to import drugs and one count of conspiring to supply Class A drugs
- Humayan Sadiq (DOB: 18/01/80), James Jenkins (DOB: 8/05/1998) and Connor Fletcher (DOB: 6/05/98) were convicted of conspiring to import drugs on 19 May 2023 following a trial at Birmingham Crown Court