Surveillance teams from Britain's National Crime Agency, the UK's Border Force and Heathrow Airport spent 18 months watching two British Airways baggage handlers move suitcases containing cannabis and cocaine off the plane and onto baggage carousels.
The bags would be collected by couriers arriving on internal flights from other airports in the UK who could exit Heathrow domestic arrivals without having to go through customs control.
The couriers, who would each receive a message on WhatsApp with a picture of the suitcase containing the drugs they had to pick up, were arrested separately. The cocaine was flown in from Brazil on at least six occasions.
Criminal network that used corrupt baggage handlers to smuggle £16 million worth of drugs through London’s Heathrow Airport sentenced to over 139 years in prison. Read the full story: https://t.co/Mdh0rPZhAZ pic.twitter.com/qf4WugQUq0— NationalCrimeAgency (@NCA_UK) April 17, 2018
The BA baggage handlers, Joysen Jhurry 41 and Mohammad Ali 41 received 16 and 15 years respectively. Preetam Mungrah, 44, the go-between the airport workers and the drug dealers has been sentenced to 13 years and six months in jail.
Four more people, Damion Goodhall, 30, Wilfred Owusu, 31, Mark Agoro, 52 and Michael Sutherland, 48 were responsible for organizing cocaine to be trafficked into London from Brazil. Sutherland's assistant, Leiona Townsend-Barley, 32, looked after logistics, booking flights and hotels for couriers.
"This was a sophisticated plot and at the center was a man who used his privileged access to Heathrow and insider knowledge of the airport's systems for criminal purposes," Brendan Foreman, regional head of investigations for NCA said in a statement.
"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."