A van driver who attempted to smuggle £16.5 million worth of heroin and cocaine by hiding it within catering supplies has been jailed for 10 years.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) – the UK’s version of the FBI – said Ross Patrick Deffley was stopped at the border in Dover on September 21 while driving a van containing boxes of canisters of nitrous oxide – a gas often used to make whipped cream.
When searched by Border Force officers, the agency said 183kg of heroin and cocaine was found concealed inside.
The NCA said officers later found the 26-year-old’s fingerprints and DNA on a number of the packages containing 97kg of heroin and 86kg of cocaine. An extendable baton was also found inside the cab.
Deffley claimed the packages were for the catering industry but were actually destined for a residential address he could access, according to the NCA.
The agency said investigators found he had set up companies to transport nitrous oxide canisters, in which the drugs were smuggled.
The NCA said Deffley, of Solihull, West Midlands, was convicted of two counts of attempting to import class A drugs on November 30, and had earlier been convicted of possession of an offensive weapon.
He was sentenced to 10 years in prison at Canterbury Crown Court on Thursday and will now be subject to a confiscation investigation under the Proceeds of Crime act to identify and seize the cash and goods obtained from his drug smuggling, according to the agency.
NCA Branch Commander Mark Howes said: “This was an extremely large amount of Class A drugs, with an estimated street value of £16.5 million. The seizure would have been a major blow to the criminal network likely to be behind the attempted importation.
“Organised crime groups involved in drug trafficking are often responsible for violence and exploitation in our communities, so cutting off their international supply lines protects the public from the harm these dangerous drugs can cause.
“Working alongside our partners in Border Force, we continue to work on the frontline against drug smuggling.”
Dave Smith, regional director Border Force South East and Europe, said: “Drug supply chains are violent and exploitative, degrading neighbourhoods across our country.”
He added the sentencing “sends a clear message” to anyone considering attempting to smuggle illegal drugs.
“Those officers involved in this seizure can be proud of their work in stopping these dangerous drugs from entering our communities”, he said.