A coach driver and his friend have been convicted for attempting to smuggle 243 kilos of cocaine into the UK worth an estimated £19.4million.
The pair from the North west had travelled to Belgium in the empty coach and were stopped by Border Force officer when it arrived in Dover in September.
Officers searched the vehicle and uncovered the cocaine hidden in a specially constructed wastewater tank.
Driver Christopher Bullows, 50, of Lord Street, St Helens, told NCA investigators that he had taken the coach to Belgium so that the air conditioning system, which was under warranty there, could be repaired. He said that the passenger and Mark Tucker was a friend and had come along ‘for the jolly’.
Tucker, 53, of Longshaw Street, Blackburn, said he was a mechanic and had joined Bullows on the trip to check on the repairs.
An investigation by the National Crime Agency uncovered that the air conditioning had been mended in the UK just months before the trip.
Bullows and Tucker were subsequently charged with attempting to import class A drugs. Both initially denied the charge but Bullows changed his plea to guilty at Canterbury Crown Court on April 22.
Tucker was convicted by a jury on May 11, following a five-day trial at the same court. He and Bullows will be sentenced on Friday, May 21.
NCA Branch Commander Mark McCormack said: “The account given by Bullows and Tucker about their trip to Belgium was a pitiful attempt to disguise their criminality.
“This was nothing more than a cynical plot to bring a substantial amount of cocaine into the UK.
“Class A drugs are inextricably linked to violence and exploitation in our communities, and we will continue to work with our partners to target the organised crime groups involved.”
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