(SKY NEWS) – A gang of four men who smuggled £2.1m of cannabis into the UK have been jailed for a total of 28 years following a National Crime Agency investigation.
The group was led by Kevin Downes, 57, who concealed three-quarters of a tonne of the drug in bags of dog biscuits to conceal the smell.
The four men, including the leader’s brother John Downes, 58, Brian Chapman, 64 and pensioner Thomas Abrahams, 73, were jailed at the Old Bailey on Friday.
Downes had imported the drugs through a fictional company called “Levante European” and Abrahams used his knowledge of the local area to ensure the drugs were delivered to an industrial unit at a remote farmland location in Kent.
The investigation by officers from the NCA found the drugs had been collected from Guadarrama in Spain and driven into the UK by a legitimate delivery company which was unaware of their illegal cargo.
NCA investigators were already tracking the gang when surveillance officers watched the drugs be unloaded from the van by John Downes at the remote location in Kent.
According to the NCA: “The boxes were opened and a number of taped packages containing cannabis resin were discovered hidden under bags of dog food.”
They were arrested by NCA officers when they stopped at a shop near to the rented unit in Kent.
Jacque Beer, NCA branch commander said: “Today’s sentencing marks the end of a long investigation that was undertaken over a number of months, in which we worked closely with our colleagues from Kent and Essex police.
“This is a significant disruption of an organised crime network intent on bringing illegal drugs into the UK.
“The Downes’ brothers, Chapman and Abrahams are career criminals.
“They were all seeking to profit from the misery that illegal drugs cause our communities.
“The cannabis had a street value of more than £2.1m and no doubt the proceeds would have funded further criminality.
“We take all importations of illegal drugs seriously and this joint policing operation has prevented a substantial quantity of drugs from ending up on our streets.”
Kevin and John Downes, from Bermondsey in south London, were jailed for nine years and 10 months and seven years and four months respectively.
Chapman, also from Bermondsey, was sentenced to five years and four months for his part in the crime, and all three men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import controlled drugs into the UK.
Abrahams, from Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, was jailed for five years and six months after being found guilty in June.