Three men have been jailed at the Old Bailey after using a light aircraft to drop cocaine with a street value of £2.5m over the Kent countryside.
Andrew Barrett, Michael Mealing and Jonathan Hart were being watched by the National Crime Agency before the drop into a field near Faversham last June. Judge Stephen Kramer QC said it was a "sophisticated and commercial" scheme.
Barrett was jailed for 16 years, Mealing for 12 years and six months, and Hart for 10 years and nine months.
The high-purity cocaine had a wholesale value of more than £1m. Father-of-three Barrett, 41, of Cheddington, in Buckinghamshire, Mealing, 41, of Corsham, Wiltshire, and Hart, 60, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to importing the drug
Barrett also admitted possessing class A and B drugs
with intent to supply and money laundering.
Together the men plotted drop-off sites and carried out reconnaissance, unaware they were under surveillance.
All three were arrested within hours of picking the cargo up on 23 June 2016.
In the boot of a car driven by Mealing and Hart to a builder's yard in Faversham, investigators found 31kg of cocaine in three fuel containers packaged with heavy-duty tape.
Barrett was spotted in Watford in a white van and apprehended. In the van was 18kg of cocaine, 1kg of MDMA
and 15kg of cannabis
. The stash had a combined street value of more than £1.5m, the court heard.
Speaking after they were sentenced Steve McIntyre, from the National Crime Agency's Border Policing Command, said the gang had "attempted to exploit perceived weaknesses in border controls."
BBC/Jan. 7, 2017
Photos: British National Crime Agency