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Home Deal News Article
Dover border agency staff have cracked a drug-smuggling gang that tried to bring £13million of cocaine into the county.
They stopped a lorry in January that had arrived from France with two Italian nationals inside.
The men - both aged 53 - claimed they were bringing in plastic, but officers discovered holdalls packed with 63 kilos of the class A drug.
Driver Rovillo Giambattista and friend Santo Virgadaula later claimed they had been offered €2,000 to bring the packages to Britain.
Experts examined the drugs - described by a judge as a "massive amount" - and discovered the cocaine had a 79% purity level, worth £13,326,880 if sold on UK streets.
Defence barrister Paul Hogben said Virgadaula had only "come for the ride" when his friend was approached by a man in France.
He said they were offered cash to take the packages in the lorry, where they would be tracked and met by a member of the drugs gang in Kent.
Mr Hogben said: "He made the biggest mistake of his life."
The pair, both family men without any previous convictions, were each jailed for 12 years after admitting drugs smuggling.
Judge Adele Williams told them: "You brought in 53 kilos of cocaine - that's a massive amount. This class A drug brings havoc and misery to many people's lives.
"That is why this court takes such a serious view of those who import it into the UK.
"You both allowed yourself to be drawn into this enterprise for financial gain. Well, you accepted the inevitable risk when you got involved."
At a separate hearing in the same court, Judge Williams jailed Dutch national Vincent Gyorke for seven years after he admitted smuggling 13kilos of cocaine into the county.
Gyorke, 34, said he had been offered €1,500 to smuggle seven packages on his lorry that was heading to Bury in Greater Manchester.
Malcolm Bragg, from the National Crime Agency's border policing command, said: "This was a brazen attempt to smuggle a large quantity of drugs into the UK.
"This amount of cocaine would have been worth around £13m. Thanks to close co-operation between NCA investigators and Border Force, this pair have been brought to justice and are behind bars where they belong."
Paul Morgan, director of Border Force south east and Europe, said: "Drug trafficking is a serious offence and those convicted will face prison sentences. Our message to those who would consider it is that it's just not worth it.
"Border Force officers will continue to work diligently to keep our border secure and to make life as tough as possible for those who seek to profit from this evil trade."
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