CUSTOMS officers have smashed a plot to smuggle super-strength cannabis into the UK in boxes of vegetables from the Caribbean.
A whopping 191kilos of “skunk” were stashed among sweet potatoes and yams on cargo flights from Jamaica.
But the smuggling operation was busted before the dangerous drug hit the streets last week.
Our crime man was at the scene as two Customs officers, acting on a tip-off, seized 176 boxes from the cargo hold of a plane that had flown in to London’s Gatwick airport from Kingston.
In among the root vegetables in ten of the boxes was the carefully- packaged drug – ready to be collected and sold to gangs across Britain.
It was the third seizure from a Caribbean flight in recent weeks, taking the Customs officers’ haul of skunk to more than half a ton – with a street value of over £3million.
One of the investigators at Gatwick said: “Criminals are concealing the drugs and smuggling them in on freight flights to be picked up in the UK.
“And they’ll try anything to get it through.
“Vegetables and food parcels seem to be the latest method of concealment.
“It’s becoming a worrying trend.”
Scores of boxes and bags of trafficked drugs and bootleg goods seized from previous flights are stored in high-security containers ready to be used as evidence in future trials.
Alongside around half a ton of cannabis were sealed packs of cocaine which had been placed inside bottles of spicy sauce in a bid to confuse sniffer dogs.
Other exhibits included counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes and 50 bags full of poor knock-offs of designer cosmetics such as Givenchy and Jean Paul Gaultier perfumes found during a search of a flight from China.
But it is the Caribbean drugs run which is causing major concern.
Last Thursday nearly four kilos of pure cocaine were found in the false-bottomed suitcase of a passenger travelling on another flight from Kingston.
UK Border Agency officers are desperately trying to crack down on the traffickers by quizzing and searching passengers who fit the profile of a drug smuggler as they walk through Customs controls.
But a new round of cuts has caused problems, sparking fears that smugglers and drug mules are slipping through the net.
Immigration staff are being told to swipe passports in the queue to ease pile-ups, preventing Customs officers from carrying out full searches.
A UKBA source said: “It’s chaotic at times because we’re so short-staffed.
“It’s a big concern that, in all likelihood, smugglers are walking through with serious amounts of Class A drugs and whatever else because Customs officers are being prevented from doing what they do best – finding illicit goods.”
By Scott Hesketh
Daily Star 12th June 2011
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