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- Gang jailed for a total of 139 years
- Ringleader Joysen Jhurry, 41, moved drug-laden suitcases flown in from Brazil
- He picked them up and popped them on carousels for UK domestic flights
- Another corrupt baggage handler, Mohammad Ali, 41, also intercepted cocaine
- Mules would be waiting to collect them without threat of customs or security
- Gang busted in synchronized raids including one captured on Heathrow CCTV
This is the moment a gang of 13 drug smugglers led by two corrupt BA baggage handlers who imported £32million of cocaine through Heathrow were busted before being jailed for more than 139 years today.
Ringleader Joysen Jhurry, 41, moved drug-laden suitcases flown in from Brazil from the international arrivals carousel to the domestic arrivals hall to avoid security checks.
Jhurry was aided by another corrupt baggage handler, Mohammad Ali, 41 and his brother-in-law, Preetam Mungrah, 44, who acted as his right hand man to help send bags full of drugs through Britain’s busiest airport.
CCTV footage reveals how their drug trafficking scheme was finally busted on December 15 2016.
Jhurry was filmed picking up the drug-laden bag from a Rio flight and putting it on a luggage carousel for a flight from Manchester.
Felicia Kufour was waiting in arrivals to pick up the bag but BA staff noticed the Rio suitcase should not have been there and wheeled it away.
Kufour then tried to flee only to be intercepted by border force officers. Members of the gang were then arrested in separate simultaneous raids across the south of England.
The ‘highly-organised’ and ‘longstanding professional conspiracy’ saw drugs smuggled from Brazil to Heathrow Terminal 5.
Just over 100 kilograms of cocaine, which had an average of 78.5% purity, was seized during the 15-month scam.
Jailing the 13-strong gang of baggage handlers, mules and dealers today for a total of 139 years Judge Michael Hopmeier said: ‘Millions of people use Heathrow each year and depend on the honesty and integrity of baggage handlers to do their job properly, but it is not simply a question of confidence in flight so far as a passenger getting his bag on arrival, but there is a security concern also, particularly in the times we live in.
‘The defendants, Jhurry and Ali, were able to take advantage of particular security weaknesses which existed at this time, in so far as they were able to attend air-side on days when they weren’t to be working.
‘They were able to get on the electric tugs and move about on days when they were not rostered to be there and go to planes – any plane – without being challenged even if they weren’t due to be working on that plane.
‘They took advantage of that weakness and that has implications pertinent to security, as well as to the particular criminality in this case.’
Jhurry was aided by another baggage handler, Mohammad Ali, 41 and his brother-in-law, Preetam Mungrah, 44.
Mark Agoro, 52, Damion Goodhall, 30, Wilfred Owusu, 30, and Michael Sutherland, 48, were the wholesalers with international contacts who were able to rake cash in for the gang.
Leiona Townshend-Bartley, 32, Francisca Archer, 26 and Aziz Abdul, 37, had lesser roles as couriers or helpers.
Judge Michael Hopmeier told the gang: ‘This court sees regularly the pernicious effects of the class A drugs today, particularly on young people whose lives are often destroyed as a result on their dependency on class A drugs.
‘In addition the lives of law abiding citizens are often affected as a result of crimes committed against them by addicts coming offences such as burglary or robbery – offences committed to further their habit’s so that they can get money to pay the drug dealers.
‘They have in turn paid the persons up the chain and the money goes up the chain.
‘Each of you in your own ways have contributed to this menace to our society and must appreciate that this court will mark your offences with severe punishment.’
Tim Probert-Wood, prosecuting, had told Southwark Crown Court: ‘It is proper organised crime. And when it works it is phenomenally lucrative.
‘High purity cocaine from Rio went through Terminal 5 at Heathrow, the drugs were concealed on British Airways flights in normal luggage.
‘The importation both in Brazil and this country was facilitated by the use of corrupt baggage handlers.
‘It was on the most serious and commercial scale and despite continual disruption when bags were lost, the conspiracy prospered for some 15 months and was still going strong at the time of arrests.’
Cocaine was intercepted on six occasions by the National Crime Agency and a total of 101 kilos was seized.
The street value was £16m but ‘there were undoubtedly other occasions when it is reasonable to infer and believe that cocaine was successfully smuggled into the country,’ the prosecutor said.
These other occasions mean the cash flow would have ‘run into the tens of millions of pounds.’
Corrupt staff in Brazil loaded bricks of ‘unadulterated cocaine’ into ordinary bags stored in the plane’s hold.
Crooked workers in the UK were then sent photos and descriptions of the bags to look out for through Blackberry Messenger.
Rather than join the rest of the luggage going through security on the international arrivals carousel, bags were ‘ripped off’ and placed on the domestic arrivals carousel before being collected.
‘If you think about it, the obvious reason for doing this is because security at domestic arrivals is far, far less,’ said Mr Probert-Wood.
‘There is no customs, no immigration, you just pick up your bag and there you go.
‘It was far, far less and so much easier to do that.
‘Mr Jhurry and his crew would be waiting as a result of the information that had been communicated to them.
‘They would identify the relevant container and remove the relevant bag from the container and take it to the domestic arrivals carousel.’
Couriers would arrive from Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen into Terminal 5 coinciding with the Rio flights and pick up bags in the arrivals hall.
Jhurry and Ali, along with a team of other BA baggage handlers, were ready to ‘rip off’ luggage from planes and take them to the domestic carousels.
They had fobs which granted them access to air-side and they were also able to get into baggage trucks and drive across the runways.
Townshend-Bartley and Awopetu worked as couriers, disembarking from domestic flights at the right time and picking up the luggage in arrivals.
Agoro, Goodhall, Owusu, Sutherland and Abdul managed the couriers and their job was to get them to the correct airports and tell them what time the luggage would be expected.
When consignments were intercepted the gang held meetings to discuss what went wrong.
Jhurry called Mungrah after police intercepted a bag filled with 129 packages of coke and said ‘Big f-k up, big f-k up.’
Agoro was arrested in connection with a separate conspiracy in August 2015 when he was caught handing across 141 grams of cocaine underneath a table at a Burger King in King’s Cross.
The police swooped on 15 December 2016 and were able to catch almost all of the gang in coordinated strikes that day.
When Jhurry was arrested by police they asked if he was expecting them, he replied, ‘No, but I’m glad you have come, it’s a relief to be honest – I am glad it’s all over.’
He claimed to be in fear of his life after a cartel in South America threatened to kill him.
But Jhurry, of Banstead, Surrey, along with Goodhall, of Tooting, south London, admitted conspiracy to import class A drugs. He was jailed for 16 years.
Agoro, 51, of Chafford Hundred, Essex, Abdul, and Awopetu, of no fixed address, also admitted the charge.
Agoro was jailed for 14 years and 6 months, Abdul for 9 years and 6 months, and Awopetu for 6 years and 9 months.
Bull, of Clapham, admitted possession of class A drugs with intent to supply at Isleworth Crown Court in January 2016 and was sentenced to six years in prison
Sutherland, of South Norwood, Croydon, Archer, of Stamford Hill, north London, Townsend-Bartley, of Camberwell, Ali, of S Slough and Kufour, of Bedford, all denied conspiring to import cocaine but were convicted in February after a three month trial at Southwark Crown Court.
Sutherland was jailed for 20 years, Archer for 6 years and 6 months, Townshend-Bartley for 6 years, Ali for 15 years and Kufour will be sentenced on 1 June due to health complications.
Mungrah, of Thornton Heath, south London, and Owusu, Stoke Newington, north London, were convicted of organising the importation of consignments after an eight week trial at Kingston Crown Court last October.
Owusu was jailed for 20 years and Mungrah was given 13 years.
NCA regional head of investigations Brendan Foreman said: ‘This was a sophisticated plot and at the centre of it was a man who used his privileged access to Heathrow and insider knowledge of the airport’s systems for criminal purposes.
‘This kind of corruption threatens the security of the UK border and the public at large which is why the NCA and its partners are tackling it as a priority.
‘Border Force, Airport authorities and the airline community were vital in helping us to stop this organised crime group in its tracks and pull together the evidence which lead to them being sentenced to significant jail time today.’
Border Force Heathrow Director Nick Jariwalla said: ‘Border Force Officers played a crucial role in this lengthy investigation, helping to bring these individuals to justice.
‘They used their in-depth knowledge of the infrastructure at Heathrow to provide invaluable insight to colleagues at the National Crime Agency and the final operation to arrest suspects was very much a joint effort.
‘This is just one example of how Border Force officers keep restricted and prohibited items out of the country and prevent them getting into the hands of organised crime groups’.