Six men deny plotting to import five tonnes of cocaine

Six men have denied plotting to import five tonnes of cocaine from Colombia at a trial at Birmingham Crown Court.

Russell Knaggs, 37, of Conisbrough, South Yorkshire, and Cassim Koubari, 38, now an inmate at HMP Rye Hill, were prisoners at a Nottinghamshire jail at the time of the alleged offence.

All six deny the charge of conspiring to import cocaine.

The jury heard the men pretended they were importing biofuels and used an e-mail scam to avoid detection.

'Plastering job'

Knaggs, a convicted drug dealer who was serving a 16-year sentence at the time of the alleged plot in 2009, talked of a "plastering job" when he referred to his plans to import cocaine, the court was told.

The prosecution said some of the accused men, who were sent to Colombia, communicated by altering draft e-mails in an account that they had access to, but never sent them out on the internet.

The prosecution said the five tonnes of cocaine would have been worth hundreds of millions of pounds if sold illegally.

The other men who are charged are David Phillips, 56, of HMP Doncaster; Phillip Hadley, 52, of Cleethorpes, who allegedly organised the finances; Robert Rich, 39, from Barnsley, who allegedly travelled to South America to arrange the shipment; and Melvin Smit, 34, of Roermond, Holland, who is accused of organising plans to ship the drugs through Holland.

The jury was told that police searched Knagg's cell at Lowdham Grange Prison, in Nottinghamshire, and found a list of Colombian drug contacts.

They also found information about a visit to South American in the cell of Koubari, including dates of flights, trips to a warehouse, and details of when drugs would be handed over.

The plot was intercepted before any drugs were delivered, the prosecution told the court.

The trial is expected to last 12 weeks.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites