24 April 2018 - Update
NCA investigators have now begun the process of identifying assets belonging to the pair, which could now be seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Jon Hughes added: "We are determined to ensure these men do not benefit financially from their crime."
23 April 2018
Two friends from Liverpool who used their logistics firm as a front for drug trafficking have been jailed, after attempting to smuggle heroin on the same day.
Kevin Aitchison, 44, and Kevin Noble, 60, were both stopped hours apart in “PNT Express” marked Mercedes vans at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Coquelles, on 19 October 2017.
Earlier that day both men had travelled from Calais into Belgium and the Netherlands, before returning back.
Aitchison was the first to attempt to return to the UK, but Border Force officers scanned his van and found packages containing 18 kilos of heroin with a potential street value of around £1.8 million hidden in special compartments.
As the search of his vehicle took place Aitchison had a text conversation with Noble, the last message of which read “Reckon am niked” (sic).
Phone data uncovered by National Crime Agency investigators show that at this point Noble was in France, but quickly turned around and returned to the Netherlands.
When he arrived at Coquelles later that evening his van was empty, but had almost identical hidden compartments fitted.
NCA officers found that PNT Express was not a registered company, and a number of bank accounts linked to Noble had more than £2 million paid into them in the preceding two years, much of which came from cash deposits.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds in payments to online bookmakers had gone out of the accounts.
Both men were charged with importing class A drugs. Aitchison pleaded guilty, and Noble was found guilty by a jury at Canterbury Crown Court after a five day trial.
On Friday 20 April Noble was sentenced to 15 years in prison, Aitchison was jailed for eight years.
NCA operations manager Jon Hughes said:
“These men were engaged in a lucrative plot to smuggle millions of pounds of class A drugs into the UK. Their logistics firm was to all intents and purposes a front for drug trafficking.
“This enterprise afforded them a lifestyle that included luxury rental apartments on Liverpool’s waterfront and gambling away hundreds of thousands of pounds.
“But that lifestyle was built on the violence and exploitation caused by the very drugs they were smuggling.
“Organised crime groups need traffickers like Aitchison and Noble, so putting their firm out of business will have an impact.”
David Hutchinson, Deputy Director of Border Force South East and Europe, said:
“This is another excellent example of Border Force officers preventing Class A drugs from ending up on the streets of the UK, where they cause significant harm to both individuals and communities.
“Working with the National Crime Agency (NCA) and other law enforcement partners we will continue to tackle smuggling of all kinds and bring those responsible to justice.”