06 Oct 2017
Two men have been convicted of being part of an organised crime group which used a corrupt baggage handler to smuggle drugs through London’s Heathrow Airport.
Preetam Mungrah, 43, of Thornton Heath, London, and Wilfred Owusu, 30, of Stoke Newington, London, were found guilty of conspiring with baggage handler Joysen Jhurry, 40, to import cocaine worth more than £9 million into the UK on Thursday 5 October following an eight week trial at Kingston Crown Court.
The prosecution followed an 18 month National Crime Agency investigation, culminating in their arrests in December 2016.
NCA surveillance officers would watch as Jhurry arranged to move suitcases containing the drugs off a flight from Brazil and have them placed on baggage carousels for domestic flights.
Around the time of each flight Jhurry was in phone contact with his right-hand man Mungrah.
The bags would be then collected by couriers, organised by Owusu, arriving on internal flights from other airports in the UK, who could exit Heathrow without going through customs controls.
Two such couriers, Danovan Bull, 45, and Moses Awopetu, 38, were arrested on arrival and would later plead guilty to importing class A drugs.
On other occasions seizures were made by Border Force officers. In total cocaine weighing more than 100 kilos and cannabis weighing around 50 kilos was seized from the gang.
Jhurry pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing. Three other men, Damion Goodhall, 30, of Tooting, London, Mark Agoro, 51, of Thurrock, Essex, and Aziz Abdul, 37, of no fixed abode, also pleaded guilty to being part of the conspiracy. All will be sentenced later in the year.
NCA regional head of investigations Brendan Foreman said:
“This was a sophisticated plot and at the centre of it was a man who used his privileged access to Heathrow and insider knowledge of the airport’s systems for criminal purposes.
“This kind of corruption threatens the security of the UK border and the public at large which is why the NCA and its partners are tackling it as a priority.
“Working with Border Force, Airport authorities and the airline community we were able to stop this organised crime group in its tracks and pull together evidence which demonstrated their guilt to the jury.”
Border Force Heathrow Director Phil Douglas said:
“Our officers played a pivotal role in this investigation, helping to bring these individuals to justice.
“Officers worked closely with the National Crime Agency, gathering vital intelligence before arrests were made. They also used their expert knowledge of the airport and its staff on the day arrests took place.
“This case demonstrates that Border Force officers are on constant alert at all times of the year to keep restricted and prohibited items out of the country and prevent them getting into the hands of organised crime groups.”