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Containers filled with 270kg of cocaine, 2,500kg of cannabis and 18.6m cigarettes

15 December 2023

Charlotte Hole and Sam Willis prosecuted two importers for bringing into the UK 270 kilograms of cocaine, 2.5 tonnes of cannabis and 18.6 million duty-free cigarettes, all hidden inside shipping containers. Valued at £24m, the drugs had been vacuum-packed and then secreted inside crates of animal feed, yams and oranges. The cigarettes were concealed in a similar manner, hidden inside crates of snack food, coconut fibre and biscuits - the tax that should have been paid on them if imported lawfully totalled just over £9m.

The case followed an extensive investigation by the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit, who became involved when a farmer discovered 189kg of cocaine in a shipping container full of animal feed. The defendants had unsuccessfully tried to divert the container to their warehouse in London so that the drugs could be removed before the container reached the farm.

During the 16-week trial, the conspiracy was evidenced using material from numerous encrypted communications services. The jury heard technical evidence involving cell site analysis, VPN services, and IP address resolution. 

Charlotte and Sam were instructed by the CPS Serious Economic, Organised Crime and International Directorate (SEOCID).