Herts Man Guilty Of Attempting Coke Smuggling

A man from Borehamwood and another man from the Netherlands, have been convicted for attempting to smuggle millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the UK by light aircraft.

The pair were arrested on 30 June 2016 by officers from the joint National Crime Agency and Metropolitan Police Service Organised Crime Partnership (OCP), after the exchange of 22 kilos of cocaine at the Holiday Inn hotel in Rochester, Kent.

The drugs, which had a wholesale value to organised crime of around £726,000 and a likely potential street value, once cut, in excess of £2.4m, had been flown into the UK from Holland that morning by Dutch national John Buwalda.

CCTV footage showed Buwalda, 49, landing his light aircraft at Rochester airfield at 12:13 and making journeys to and from the aircraft with a suitcase, before checking into the adjacent Holiday Inn hotel an hour later.

At 13:10 OCP officers observed Jan Polak, a 61 year-old Polish national living in Howard Drive, Borehamwood, retrieve two sports bags from his van and enter the hotel. Once inside, he went to Buwald's room on the second floor where the handover took place.

Polak was detained by OCP officers as he exited the hotel with the sports bags which now contained 22 kilos of cocaine. Buwalda was arrested in his hotel room shortly after.

Hotel staff told officers Buwalda had arrived earlier that day with two suitcases but checked in for the day only, as he had done on several occasions previously.

When interviewed, Polak denied knowing the packages contained illegal drugs and claimed he had been approached by an unknown man in London, who asked him to deliver a parcel in exchange for money. Despite his claims, officers searching his van found a purpose-built concealment behind the front seats, hidden behind a false bulk head and operated electronically.

Buwalda and Polak were charged with importing class A drugs and were remanded in custody. They were both found guilty by a jury at The Old Bailey on 22 December 2016.

Andy Tickner from the Organised Crime Partnership, said:

"This was a significant seizure of class A drugs which if sold on, would have generated cash to fund further criminality.  The complex concealment in Polak's van points to him being a professional courier, trusted by organised criminals to transport illicit goods.

Officers from the OCP will continue to intercept drugs and prevent organised criminals from accessing the proceeds of their crimes."

The OCP brings together officers from the National Crime Agency and Metropolitan Police Service to protect the communities of London from the harms inflicted by organised crime.

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