Published: 09:13, 04 March 2020
| Updated: 11:20, 04 March 2020
A car dealer with more than £1 million worth of cocaine stashed behind his bumpers said he didn’t know the drugs were there.
Abdullah Iqbal’s blue Subaru Impreza was stopped in the Eurotunnel UK zone in Coquelles, France, when he was quizzed by Border Force officers before he reached Kent.
The 33-year-old maintained the drugs were planted however a jury at Canterbury Crown Court unanimously found him guilty in less than an hour.
Staff became suspicious when Iqbal claimed to be returning from a day-and-a-half trip from Germany’s Nurburgring by himself.
A search of his high-performance car revealed 14 kilograms of 70% pure cocaine packed behind his front and rear bumpers.
But Iqbal denied any knowledge of the haul, bound for Folkestone.
The court heard Iqbal bought his car, passport and Eurotunnel ticket just days before his arrest on September 11, 2017.
He told police the Impreza was out of his eye-sight on various occasions while visiting the motorsports complex and was released on police bail.
Meanwhile the force and National Crime Agency (NCA) continued their investigation.
Prosecutors argued Iqbal was lying about his whereabouts and in-fact drove to Rotterdam returning to Calais in less than 24 hours.
Barrister Nina Ellin explained the probe uncovered suspicious material on Iqbal’s phone.
Questions would also be asked why, if he claimed to be at the Nurburgring, the suspect had taken snaps of a casino and hotel room.
NCA officers identified the buildings as being Rotterdam’s Jack’s Casino and Campanile Hotel, where digital logs revealed he had used the WiFi.
They also found no evidence existed of Iqbal visiting Nurburgring - check in details or photograph of the Impreza among the thousands of professional snaps taken that day.
However, the barrister stressed the race-track doesn't keep logs of every driver and car that visits.
Miss Ellin added a 10-hour round-journey from Calais to Nurburg in West Germany, coupled with the race track’s opening times, would have been impossible.
And cell site information taken from Iqbal’s phone showed the device had been in Holland, not Germany.
“This is all Rotterdam and not Germany at all,” Miss Ellin told the jury.
“He went to Rotterdam for less than one day at a great expense.
“What was he doing there?”
The court heard Iqbal gave no comment and claimed he lost his passport after being invited for a second interview some two years later.
After the guilty verdict Iqbal's barrister said his client's drug smuggling attempt stemmed from naivety.
Mitigating, he added: "He is the primary carer for his two children.
"Of course as Your Honour knows those who suffer the most when someone serves a period in prison is someone else.
"It is a sad fact that his family will suffer."
But Recorder John Bate-Williams jailed Iqbal, of Beechwood Road in Liverpool, for nine years.
He said: "As you will know from the outset only a prison sentence is justified.
"And I intend to pass a prison sentence to mark how disgusting this offence is. That is a nine year sentence."
Following the sentencing, David Smith, Border Force director, said: “Detections like this show the challenges that Border Force officers rise to every day.
"It was officers’ expertise and attention to detail - recognising an apparent irregularity with the bumpers - that has resulted in a significant quantity of cocaine being taken out of circulation."