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31 May 2012, 05:00
Two lorry drivers who attempted to smuggle cannabis worth an estimated £1,350,000 through the Port of Harwich have been jailed today.
Dutchman John Lutjeboer, 29, and Eugeniusz Klepacki, 50, from Poland had both been convicted of importing a class B drug after a two week trial at Ipswich Crown Court.
Klepacki was jailed for four and a half years and Lutjeboer was jailed for four years.
Lutjeboer had been arrested by Border Force officers at Harwich on 16 March, 2010. He had arrived at the port with a trailer listed as containing soap dispensers. However, an X-Ray scan of the trailer revealed anomalies.
Further investigation uncovered a large number of cardboard boxes at the heart of the genuine load which contained packages of herbal cannabis and cannabis resin weighing approximately 170kg and worth an estimated £500,000.
Klepacki was arrested on 19 April, 2010. He had arrived at Harwich pulling the very same trailer as Lutjeboer. Again, an X-Ray scan suggested there maybe more to the load than the tanning gels and lotions which it was listed as.
A search led to the discovery of approximately 297kg of herbal cannabis worth an estimated £850,000.
Malcolm Bragg, from Border Force, said:
"Both men had used exactly the same method. They had collected a legitimate load, but then had stopped in transit to collect and conceal the drugs.
They insisted that the drugs had been added to the load without their knowledge, but for these smuggling attempts to have succeeded demanded the drivers' co-operation."
The Border Force investigation included detailed analysis of the vehicle's tachographs, which records speed and movement. This work was able to prove that both drivers had made overnight stops near industrial estates in The Netherlands where it is believed the drugs were loaded on board.
Malcolm Bragg said:
"Both Klepacki and Lutjeboer have lied from the word go about their involvement in these smuggling attempts, but thanks to the strong case built by our officers over the course of a complex investigation the jury saw right through them.
Our officers are on constant alert to keep illegal drugs and other banned substances out of the UK and take them out of the supply chain before they reach the streets."
There are specialist Criminal and Financial Investigation teams across the country that work to identify those involved in smuggling and immigration crime, be they the smuggler or wider criminal gang.
Anyone with information about activity they suspect may be linked to drug smuggling should call our hotline on 0800 59 5000.