A gang who disguised crack cocaine as papaya and stashed cannabis in consignments of yams during a drug smuggling operation in the UK, have been jailed for a total of more than 38 years.
Four of the five men were sentenced earlier this week at Isleworth Crown Court, having all previously pleaded guilty to various counts of drugs importation and drugs supply offences. The men were all identified and arrested after an operation by the Met’s Organised Crime Command.
Barrington Bennett was stopped by police shortly after he picked up a number of boxes from a freight company in Southall in January 2015. Officers found bags of dried fruit and nuts labelled ‘Fancy Island Mix’, but when the contents were forensically analysed, they found two kilograms of crack cocaine that had been coloured orange to make it look like papaya.
Officers also arrested Jarnail Singh after he was seen to be in convoy with Bennett and made a delivery of several other boxes. Police arrested Luis Restrepo and discovered what turned out to be 33.8kgs of herbal cannabis disguised as yams hidden in and amongst real yams in the boxes Singh delivered.
In March 2015, a further shipment of 36 kgs of cannabis, again disguised as yams, was seized by Border Force officers at Gatwick Airport with the intended recipient for the goods being Tazio Heath at the same Southall freight company.
Police linked Heath with Donovan Bailey, an owner of a recording studio in Reading and in April 2015 officers discovered 22 rolls of herbal cannabis totalling 1.8kgs at Bailey’s studio. Later in April, a further 40 kilos of herbal cannabis were seized at Gatwick Airport with the intended recipient again being Tazio Heath.
The following month Tazio Heath and Jarnail Singh were arrested after taking possession of a further 25kgs of cannabis disguised as yams, imported from Jamaica and delivered to the same Southall freight company the day before.
All five men were subsequently charged with various drugs offences in May 2015 and pleaded guilty and were sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court earlier this week.
“This police operation successfully dismantled a sophisticated crime network that was regularly importing drugs into the UK disguised as food,” says Detective Constable Catherine Pearson, from the Met’s Organised Crime Command.
“Jarnail Singh and Tazio Heath were central to this criminal network that had gone to great lengths to conceal cocaine as papaya pieces and hide cannabis inside fake yams, in a clear bid to evade detection by UK Border Force.”