Ten Jailed For Portsmouth Docks Cocaine-Smuggling Plot

1 September 2014, 11:47 | Updated: 1 September 2014, 11:51

Two crime gangs enlisted a corrupt shipping worker in an attempt to launch a "vast'' cocaine smuggling operation at Portsmouth Docks.

Ten people have been jailed for a total of more than 140 years for the conspiracies, which would have been worth millions of pounds if they had not been thwarted by police.

The full extent of the plots was disclosed today when reporting restrictions were lifted after Audley Powell, 56, became the tenth defendant to be sentenced. He was jailed at Winchester Crown Court for eight-and-a-half years.

Investigators at the National Crime Agency (NCA) said two organised crime groups targeted Shaun Wilson, 46, a dock worker, in order to exploit his knowledge of security procedures.

The gangs met him separately on several occasions in service stations, pubs and parks to plan cocaine importations.

Each shipment was to be timed to coincide with Wilson's shifts so he could remove the drugs from the docks without detection.

However, NCA officers were watching the meetings and neither group managed to realise their plans.

One failed when their first batch - totalling 26 kilos and hidden in a container of pineapples on a ship from Costa Rica - was seized during an operation in November 2010. The consignment would have had a street value of around £3 million.

All group members were arrested and the apprehension of Wilson helped stop the second group from succeeding with their plan to import cocaine hidden in a container of bananas

Wilson was found guilty in September 2011 of the first conspiracy to import cocaine and was jailed for 14 years. He admitted involvement in the second plot and received a concurrent eight-year sentence.

Gerry McGowan, of the NCA, said:

"Wilson abused his position of trust by providing the crime groups with details of suitable ships, routes and times. He was going to ensure he was on duty to guarantee safe removal of the drugs.

"The long term plan was to import vast quantities of cocaine on a regular basis.

"Protecting our borders is a priority for the NCA. We will be relentless in pursuing criminals who try to bring drugs into the country, however long it takes, and wherever they try to hide.''

Powell, of Catford, south London, was part of the second group. He was on the run until November last year, when investigators traced him to Jamaica and brought him back to the UK. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine in January this year.

Among the crime group members jailed for their part in the 26kg plot were Roy Godber, 64, from Rainham in Essex, and David Roberts, 61, from Romford in Essex, who both absconded during their trial in September 2011. They were convicted in their absence and each received 20 years. Investigators tracked them down in Malta and they were extradited in 2013.

Three other men sentenced in connection with the plot were Jason Flisher, 43, from Folkestone in Kent (16 years); Richard Edwards, 51, from Barking, east London, (20 years); and Eric Ward, 51, from Portsmouth (10 years).

Errol Heibner, 69, from Bow in east London (14 years), Donald Chambers, 55, from Charlton in south London (13 years) and Norman Burton, 57, from Catford, in south London (14 years) were jailed for being involved in the second group.

A further two men were convicted of money laundering offences after being arrested at the Channel Tunnel as part of the wider operation. They were handed suspended sentences.