30 Jun 2005 04:45 PM

Two Spaniards and three Colombians were today sentenced at Snaresbrook Crown Court for importing 35.8kg of cocaine with a street value of £2.6m following a surveillance operation by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) criminal investigators. They received jail sentences totalling 80 years.

The cocaine, hidden in two holdalls, was smuggled into the UK via the Channel Tunnel on 5 October 2003, concealed in a Spanish lorry by Francisco Borrero-Cruzado and Francisco Gadea-Enciso. They then drove to Thurrock Services, where CCTV footage shows them meeting the three Colombian nationals.

The gang then left in a number of vehicles and met up again in Atcost Road in Barking, Essex, where the drugs were transferred from the lorry and placed in the boot of a Peugeot car.

HMRC officers who had been carrying out surveillance on the gang moved in to arrest all five men and recovered 35.8kgs of cocaine from the two holdalls in the boot of the car. A further search revealed $160,000 hidden in a concealed compartment in the trailer of the lorry.

The five defendants were charged with importation of cocaine illegally into the UK contrary to Section 170 (2) (b) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

Graham Honey, HMRC Assistant Chief Investigation Officer said:

"The severity of the sentences handed down today should send out a clear warning to those who attempt to smuggle Class A drugs into the country. HM Revenue & Customs will continue to work at the forefront of the fight to stop drug trafficking into the UK, and to reduce the associated harm to our communities."

This case was successfully prosecuted by the newly established Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO). RCPO is an independent prosecuting authority which reports to the Attorney General, and is responsible for the prosecution of all HMRC cases.

Notes for editors

1. The men sentenced today were:

Francisco Xavier Gadea-Enciso DOB 05/10/68. A Spanish national with no UK address.
Sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.

Francisco Jose Borrero-Cruzado DOB 06/01/72. A Spanish national with no UK address. Lives in Huelva, Spain.
Sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.

Jorge Andres Rodriguez Mejia DOB 16/05/73. A Colombian national - Upper Richmond Road West, London SW14
Sentenced to 13 years imprisonment.

Pedro Mejia Valencia DOB 20/02/60. A Colombian national - Trafalgar Way, London E14
Sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.

Larry Avenia Gonzalez DOB 02/01/55. Colombian national - Snowfields, London SE1
Sentenced to 19 years imprisonment.

2. Jorge Andres Rodriguez Mejia and Pedro Mejia Valencia had previously pleaded guilty to importation of the cocaine. On 9 June 2005, Gadea-Enciso, Borrero-Cruzado and Avenia Gonzalez were found guilty following a trial.

3. The Revenue & Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO) was created by Royal Assent on 7 April 2005. An independent prosecuting authority, RCPO reports directly to the Attorney General, and is responsible for prosecuting some of the largest drug and fraud cases in the UK. For further information please contact the RCPO press office on 020 7865 5666.

Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Media Relations Team