England

Two jailed over cross-Channel cocaine night flights

(L-R) Fagnoul, Bolter, Francis Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Fagnoul (left) and Bolter (centre) have been jailed and Francis is still to be sentenced

Two members of a drugs-smuggling gang that transported cocaine worth £7m from France to the UK have been jailed.

A helicopter flew the drugs to Lydd Airport and Kent hotel helipads before they were moved on by car.

Belgian national Frederic Fagnoul was jailed for 17-and-a-half years at Southwark Crown Court.

John Bolter, from Tooting, London, was jailed for seven-and-a-half years for his part in the conspiracy. Both previously admitted drugs charges.

A third man, Dean Francis, from Orpington, London, has also admitted conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, and will be sentenced later this week.

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption The helicopter had trapdoors under the seats to store drugs
Image copyright Met Police
Image caption The car also had hidden compartments inside

After the hearing, the Crown Prosecution Service released pictures of the helicopter and car which had hidden compartments to store the cocaine.

The operation was believed to have taken place over at least three months last year.

Senior crown prosecutor William Russell said ringleader Fagnoul rented a helicopter and a pilot to bring the drugs to the UK via hotels he stayed in.

Image copyright CPS
Image caption Surveillance showed Fagnoul carrying heavy bags from the helicopter to a hotel

'Night-fishing cover story'

Police surveillance showed him carrying bags from the helicopter to a hotel room.

"This was a sophisticated large-scale operation to supply large amounts of cocaine," Mr Russell said.

Following sentencing, Det Ch Supt Mick Gallagher, head of the Met Police organised crime command, said Fagnoul was importing an estimated 50kg of cocaine on each flight.

The cover story Fagnoul used when he landed in Kent was that he had been night-fishing, he added.

He said the force and National Crime Agency had combated a drug-dealing network "that spread from Europe to the UK".

Fagnoul, 50, admitted conspiracy to supply and import cocaine.

Bolter, 36, who was arrested driving the car with 20kg of cocaine inside, and Francis, 28, who was seen by police driving to pick up cocaine, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine.

Lydd Airport declined to comment.

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