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Van driver Teodor Butnaru jailed for smuggling drugs into Kent

By Paul Hooper

A van driver trying to smuggled £2 million worth of drugs into Kent had a highly sophisticated hiding place, a court heard.

The rear of Teodor Butnaru’s truck, which was stopped at the entrance of the Channel Tunnel, was controlled by a hydraulic system.

Prosecutor Amy OIiver revealed the only way it could be operated was for a concealed switch near a side door panel to be turned on and then the ignition turned on and the gears put in reverse.

Some of the drugs seized
Some of the drugs seized

She told Canterbury Crown Court that when UK Border agency officials managed to find the way inside the hidden compartment in April this year, they discovered a stash of 24 kilos of cocaine and heroin and 33 kilos of cannabis.

Judge Heather Norton was told the drugs would have fetched more than £2.2m on the streets.

Now 30-year-old Romanian Butnaru has been jailed for nine years and eight months after he admitted three charges of drugs smuggling.

His lawyer Paul Lamb said the construction worker was 30,000 Euros in debt and had been approached by drug dealers who offered him £6,000 to make the run to Kent.

He said: "Given his financial problems he just found it too tempting an offer."

Teodor Butnaru was jailed for nine years and eight months
Teodor Butnaru was jailed for nine years and eight months

The court heard how he handed over the keys to others who took the van away so work on the "sophisticated" concealment could be carried out.

Judge Norton told him: "Drugs just bring misery and harm to many people and you did this for payment."

Speaking after sentencing, National Crime Agency senior investigating officer, Darren Herbert, said: "Couriers like Butnaru play a vital role in helping organised crime groups move their products across international borders.

"Those same crime groups are the ones bringing violence and exploitation to our streets.

"This was a substantial quantity of drugs worth around £2.3 million, and I’ve no doubt that working with our Border Force colleagues we have prevented profit from that being used to fund further criminality."

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