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Drug Bosses Who Smuggled Cocaine Worth £5m In Suitcases Through Gatwick Are Jailed

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Two drug bosses have been jailed after cocaine worth millions of pounds was smuggled into the UK using corrupt baggage handlers at Gatwick airport.

Tyrone Gordon and Ryan Steadman were sentenced over a months-long "audacious" and "successful" scam in which couriers brought the class A drug in suitcases into the country from Brazil via Madrid on Air Europa flights.

The passengers left their checked-in luggage at Gatwick when they arrived, so the gang could then smuggle it out of the West Sussex hub.

The drug network had connections with dishonest baggage handlers who took the luggage off site without being checked because they were airport workers.

The gang was involved in smuggling more than 50kg of cocaine with a street value of up to £5.2m between February 2020 and November 2021, according to the judge, Christopher Grout.

'The plan was audacious but successful'

Sentencing the pair at Woolwich Crown Court after they were found guilty last week following a nine-week trial, the judge said:

"The plan was audacious but successful, albeit not as successful as you would have liked."

Using encrypted Encrochat handsets, they also tried planning to import heroin using corrupt DHL parcel couriers when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted their cocaine scheme, but this did not come to fruition.

Gordon, who was at the top of the network and had connections in South America, was sentenced to 26 years behind bars for conspiracy to import cocaine, and three other sentences to run concurrently.

Long sentences

Those sentences were 26 years for conspiracy to import heroin, 14 years for possession with intent to supply cocaine, and nine years for offering to supply cocaine.

The judge told Gordon:

"Class A drugs destroy lives and not just the lives of the people that use them and deal in them.

"The families of those people - your family - suffer as well.

"So too does the wider community that has to live with the side-effects of drug misuse which includes related criminality - such as robbery and theft - which addicted users of such drugs often commit in order to fund their habits. You are responsible for contributing to this misery in a major way."

Steadman, who was number two in the network, was sentenced to 20 years for conspiracy to import cocaine, and 20 years for conspiracy to import heroin to run concurrently.

Judge Grout told the father-of-five:

"It is clear that you were heavily involved in organising the buying and selling of Class A drugs on a commercial scale."

He went on:

"I am driven to the conclusion that your high-level involvement of offending on this scale could only have been with the expectation of substantial financial advantage."

Both men will serve half the sentences behind bars before being released on licence.

A third man, Jack Williams, who was the connection to corrupt baggage handlers, previously admitted his role in the gang. He will be sentenced at a later date.

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