'Insider threat’ airport worker jailed for 13 years in Colombian cocaine conspiracy

8 June 2018

An airport security officer who was at the centre of a Colombian organised crime group’s cocaine route into the UK has been jailed for 13 years, after a National Crime Agency investigation.

Farhan Iqbal, 31, used his insider knowledge and privileged access to Heathrow Airport to take consignments of the Class A drug before passing them on.

Today, at Blackfriars Crown Court, Iqbal, of Hanson Gardens, Southall, London, was sentenced along with two accomplices – a courier who brought the drugs in and a man who was waiting to collect them.

On November 23 last year NCA officers caught Iqbal in the toilets at Terminal 5 taking possession of 5.9kg of cocaine from Camilo Pulido Suarez,37, who had flown in from Bogota, Colombia.

The drugs had a street value of £480,000.

Middleman Iqbal was on sick leave and not due to work that day but at 3pm he arrived at Heathrow Terminal 3 in his uniform, passed through security checks and made his way to Terminal 5.

Pulido Suarez landed at Terminal 2 and then caught a bus to Terminal 5 where he headed to the toilets. He had a black trolley bag with him which contained hidden compartments where the drugs were stashed.

When officers moved in one of the compartments had been sliced open to reveal a black package containing the class A.

Officers searched the men and found a Wilkinson Sword razor blade on Pulido-Suarez and the Wilkinson Sword packaging on Iqbal.

Iqbal planned to take the drugs and transfer them to Wilmer Salazar Duarte, 44, of St Margarets Road, Manor Park, London, who arrived at the airport at 2.50pm with a black trolley bag and was waiting in Terminal 5’s arrivals area.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police Service searched Salazar Duarte’s home and found a large number of phones and sim cards, a pair of scales, books with pages torn out and believed to have concealed drugs and details of flights coming to London from Bogota.

National Crime Agency senior investigating officer Mark Abbott said: “Iqbal was pivotal to this organised crime group’s ability to bring drugs into the UK. Without him it wouldn’t have happened. The OCG viewed him as a valuable asset because his airside access reduced the risk for couriers.

“This form of corruption threatens the security of the UK border and public which is why the NCA sees it as a priority.

“Heathrow Airport provided invaluable assistance in this operation, and working with partners in the Metropolitan Police Service, Border Force and the aviation and airline authorities we will continue to crack these cases and target corrupt individuals working for criminal networks.”

Russell Tyner, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Farhan Iqbal was a valuable asset to the organised crime group because he had privileged access to the airside areas of Heathrow Airport. He abused his position to allow the other men to smuggle cocaine from Colombia.

“This was a sophisticated operation and each defendant played a role in the conspiracy.

“Three of the defendants pleaded guilty but Iqbal denied involvement. However, thanks to CPS prosecutors and the National Crime Agency working together to build a strong case, the jury found him guilty."

Iqbal was convicted at trial of conspiring to smuggle Class A.

Pulido-Suarez and Wilmer both admitted the offence and were jailed for five years three months and seven years six months respectively.
Wilmer’s brother Alexander Salazar-Duarte, 47, of Langton Avenue, Newham, London, has admitted conspiring to import Class A.

He is listed for a Newton hearing - to determine the extent of his role – on 5 July when he is also due to be sentenced.

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