Helicopter drug smuggling gang jailed

|News, Drug offences

Members of a cocaine smuggling gang have been sentenced to a total of 25 years in prison after a helicopter was used to transport the drug into the UK from France.

Helicopter used for drug-smuggling

The helicopter had hidden trapdoors under the seats to store drugs. A smuggler would fly the drugs into Lydd Airport in Kent from Calais and drop them off at two hotels nearby. The drugs would then be unpacked and transported onwards by car in hidden compartments to be sold across the country.

Helicopter hidden compartment

Two men were sentenced today at Southwark Crown Court to a total of 25 years in prison after admitting charges of conspiring to import cocaine or conspiring to supply cocaine. A third will be sentenced later this week.

Ringleader Frederic Fagnoul, 50, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to importing and supplying drugs. Two other men admitted conspiracy to supply the drugs onward in the UK in a supply chain which is believed to have been gone on for at least three months. He was sentenced to 17 years and six months’ imprisonment today.

Fagnoul, a Belgian national, rented a helicopter and pilot to bring the cocaine into the country via the hotels he was staying.

Surveillance by the police showed Fagnoul carrying heavy bags from the helicopter on 12 September 2017 to a room at the Chilston Park Hotel in Maidstone, Kent. After he was seen passing on the drugs to others they were arrested and the helicopter seized.

Frederic Fagnoul surveillance photograph

Dean Francis, 37, of Orpington, Kent, was seen by police on 5 September, driving to Eastwell Manor Hotel to pick up cocaine from Fagnoul. His fingerprints were found inside a hidden compartment in the boot of his car. He is due to be sentenced on Thursday, 26 April after admitting conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

John Bolter, 36, from Tooting, was arrested on 6 September driving the car with 20kg of cocaine hidden inside. He initially pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine but changed his plea. He was sentenced today to seven years and six months’ imprisonment.

Drugs inside hiddent compartment of car

William Russell, of the CPS, said: "This was a sophisticated large-scale operation to supply large amounts of cocaine from the continent into the UK.

"The prosecution were able to prove the conspiracy by using evidence from the investigation including the use of hidden compartments in the helicopter and cars as well as the surveillance material outlining the movements of various couriers employed by the gang."

Notes to editors

  • Frederic Fagnoul (DOB: 09/05/1967) pleaded guilty on 3 November 2017 to:
    • One count of conspiracy to supply cocaine, contrary to section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977
    • One count of conspiracy to import cocaine, contrary to section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977
  • Dean Francis (DOB: 11/08/1980) pleaded guilty on 23 February 2018 to:
    • One count of conspiracy to supply cocaine, contrary to section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977
  • John Bolter (DOB: 25/04/1981) pleaded guilty on 07 March 2018 to:
    • One count of conspiracy to supply cocaine, contrary to section 1[1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977
  • William Russell is a Senior Crown Prosecutor in the London Complex Casework Unit.

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