Three men, including one from Cheddington, have been given prison sentences totalling almost 40 years for working to import drugs worth over £2.5million which were dropped from a plane.
Father-of-three Andrew Barrett, 41, of High Street, Cheddington, and co-defendants Michael Mealing and Jonathon Hart – both of no fixed abode – plotted possible landing and drop-off sites in Kent and carried out a recce of a location, unaware they were under surveillance by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
On June 23 last year, investigators watched as a light aircraft flew low over one of the sites, a secluded field a few miles from Faversham, Kent.
Mealing and Hart then drove from the location but were followed to a builders’ yard in Faversham where NCA officers arrested them.
Officers found three large fuel containers, packaged with tape capable of withstanding a drop from air, in the boot of the vehicle.
31 kilos of high-purity cocaine was recovered from the containers, with a wholesale value to organised crime of just over £1million. If cut and sold on the street it could have been worth more than £2.5million.
Barrett was seen at an address in Watford in a white van shortly afterwards, and was also arrested.
Officers found a holdall containing a further 18 kilos of cocaine, one kilo of MDMA and 15 kilos of cannabis in the back of the van.
The stash had a combined wholesale value of around £650,000, but if sold on the streets it could have been worth more than £1.5million.
All three men later pleaded guilty to importing cocaine, while Barrett also admitted possessing class A and B drugs with intent to supply and money laundering.
On Friday, January 6, at the Old Bailey, Barrett was sentenced to 16 years in prison, Mealing was given 12-and-a- half years, and Hart ten years and nine months.
Steve McIntyre, from the NCA’s Border Policing Command, said: “These men attempted to exploit perceived weaknesses in border controls, but working with the police and Border Force we are actively targeting criminals who try to use general aviation and small airfields as a way into the
UK. “Our investigation into others who may have been involved continues.”