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Dutch drug smuggler ordered to hand over £400,000

A Dutch pilot who smuggled millions of pounds-worth of cocaine into the UK in a light aircraft has been ordered to pay more than £400,000 at a confiscation hearing.

John Buwalda, 54, was jailed for 23 years in December 2016 following an investigation by the joint National Crime Agency and Metropolitan Police Organised Crime Partnership (OCP).

Six months previously, Buwalda flew a private plane into Rochester Airfield carrying suitcases packed with 22kg of class A drugs with a street value of £2.4 million.

He was arrested at the adjacent Holiday Inn Hotel after handing the cocaine over to a courier, Jan Polak, 63, from Poland.

NCA financial investigators identified that at the time of his arrest, Buwalda was the joint proprietor of 16 properties in the Netherlands and owned two private aircrafts.

On Friday 21 September at the Old Bailey, Buwalda was ordered to hand over £422, 268.81 (€470,092) based on an assessment of his available assets.

The aircraft he used to import the drugs has also been seized. Buwalda sold his second plane in 2016 to help pay his legal fees.

If he does not pay the sum of money within three months, he will be sentenced to a further four years in prison and still be liable for the money.

Matt McMillan from the Organised Crime Partnership said: “Orders like this are a key tool in allowing us to pursue illegally-obtained assets and preventing convicted criminals from funding luxury lifestyles on their release.

“If Buwalda pays, he’ll get out of prison when he expected to. If not, he’ll stay in there for four more years and still have to settle this bill at the end.”


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