28 September 2018
A 24-year-old man has been sentenced to nine and a half years in prison after admitting to directing couriers to smuggle over £1 million of cocaine into the UK in their suitcases.
NCA investigators identified Dutch national Wellington Rodriguez Pena, who was living in Wolverhampton, as the organiser behind two separate importation attempts to smuggle a total of 14kg of cocaine.
In October 2016, he booked return flights to Aruba under a fake name for two people at a travel agents in Coventry.
Esteban Berenguer Buhigas, aged 57, and his wife, Ana Maria Perez Davila, aged 36, both from Barcelona in Spain, were arrested on their return to Manchester Airport on 1 November 2016 after Border Force officers seized 10kg of cocaine concealed within false sides of their suitcases.
The pair were subsequently jailed for 6 years and 4 years respectively.
CCTV footage recovered showed Rodriguez Pena entering the travel agents where their flights were booked on two consecutive days in a distinctive red leather jacket and red shoes. NCA officers found images of him wearing the same outfit on his social media pages.
On 26 March 2017, Rafeal Canovas Simo, aged 53, from Majorca, attempted to smuggle 4kg of cocaine into Heathrow Airport. Evidence showed that Rodriguez Pena also arranged his travel and had sent him money prior to the importation attempt.
Canovas Simo was sentenced to seven years and five months in prison.
After being flagged as wanted by the NCA, Rodriguez Pena was arrested by Police Officers as he attempted to board an outbound flight at Gatwick Airport on 17 February 2018.
On 27 September 2018 at Croydon Crown Court, he pleaded guilty to two counts of importing class A drugs. He was sentenced today to nine and a half years imprisonment.
NCA Operations Manager, John Hughes, said: “Those behind the supply of class A drugs are directly responsible for both fuelling violent crime and gang activity, and exploiting others to carry out their crimes.
“We work closely with our Border Force colleagues to target those who attempt to undermine the security of UK border by smuggling illegal drugs, subsequently endangering the public for their own financial gain.”
Liz Versi, Director Border Force North said: “This was a substantial quantity of cocaine which our officers have prevented from reaching the UK’s streets where it could have done so much harm.
“Working with our colleagues at the National Crime Agency (NCA) we are determined to do all we can to stop drug traffickers.”