Published: 18:58, 09 July 2020
| Updated: 20:04, 09 July 2020
A smuggler who had quite literally been sitting on his illegal cocaine goldmine before he was caught out has been jailed for six years.
Narcis-Bogdan Stoica, 29, from Neamt County in Romania, tried to use a fake fruit and veg business as a cover for drug trafficking 15 kilos of Class A drugs into Kent.
Appearing at Canterbury Crown Court, yesterday, he pleading guilty to attempting to import the drugs which had a potential street value of an estimated £1.2 million and was sentenced to six years in prison.
The National Crime Agency began investigating Stoica after Border Force officials stopped him passing through the Channel Tunnel terminal at Coquelles near Calais on April 17.
A search of the van he was driving revealed two purpose built concealments for the drugs behind the doorstep cover material, above both the passenger and driver's seats.
Stoica told officers, who found pallets of fruit and vegetables in the back of the van, that he was starting his own delivery business.
He had purchased the refrigerated vehicle in the UK a week before being stopped, and was on his way back from the Netherlands.
Stoica remained in custody until yesterday, having entered a guilty plea on June 15 at an earlier hearing.
NCA Dover Branch Commander, Martin Grace, said: “This individual thought he could hide his criminal activity under the guise of a legitimate business.
“If undetected, this cocaine would have undoubtedly been distributed in the UK, where the class A drug trade fuels violence and exploitation.
“At the NCA we know that people like Stoica, who are willing to take risks, are crucial to the activities of serious organised crime groups.
"By working with partners like Border Force, we’re able to stop their activities and disrupt the networks they work for.”
Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts, Chris Philp, said: “Excellent work by Border Force and the NCA has ensured that more than £1m of cocaine has been kept off the UK’s streets and brought a smuggler to justice.
“Illegal drugs fuel crime, violence and exploitation which is why our work to prevent them reaching our communities is so vital.”