1 August 2018
A truck driver who claimed the 8kg of cocaine found in his lorry was tobacco has been jailed for nine years.
It took the jury just 20 minutes at Canterbury Crown Court to convict 52 year-old Lithuanian Vaidotas Tuoma of drug smuggling yesterday (31st July).
NCA investigators said the Class A drugs have a street value of around £653,000
On 5 February this year, officers from Border Force stopped Tuoma’s vehicle at the UK bound freight lanes of Channel Tunnel at Coquelles.
Tuoma’s paperwork stated he was transporting sushi, bratwurst and chocolate from Germany to Telford, Shropshire.
He told officers that he was present when the lorry was being loaded but had taken a nine hour break in Holland. He also told them he had a sleeve of 200 cigarettes. A search of the driver’s cab revealed three more sleeves of cigarettes - 800 in total.
Officers then found a number of tape-wrapped packages under Tuoma’s bunk, which testing revealed contained Class A drug cocaine.
Tuoma was arrested and brought to the UK for questioning by NCA investigators.
In an interview with NCA officers, Tuoma said he was approached on Sunday 4 February at about 10pm by a Russian speaking man at a service station on the Dutch/Belgium border.
Tuoma claimed the Russian asked him to bring tobacco to the UK and deliver the packages to a service station in Maidstone, Kent.
He would then be met by someone who would say “tobacco” and be “reimbursed” after giving over the packages.
Tuoma told investigators that he hid the packages of “tobacco” under the bunk because he thought they would be “over the amount” legally allowed into the UK.
He could give no details for the Russian man and told investigators his fingerprints would be on the blocks because he placed them under the bunk.
Darren Herbert, NCA Senior Investigation Officer, said:
“The compelling evidence and Tuoma’s claim an unknown Russian gave him tobacco to deliver to another unknown person weighed very heavily against him. It took the jury just 20 minutes to convict him at Canterbury Crown Court.
“Drugs fuel violent crime and other criminal activities and this is another example of how working together with our Border Force colleagues has prevented a significant quantity of Class A drugs ending up on the streets of the UK.”
Paul Morgan, 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.”