A 66-year-old woman who was a courier for an organised crime group that used corrupt baggage handlers to smuggle £16million worth of drugs through London’s Heathrow Airport has been jailed for six years and three months.
Felicia Kufuor was one of four couriers hired by the group to collect suitcases containing cocaine after arriving at Heathrow on an internal flight from other airports in the UK.
The conspiracy involved two British Airways baggage handlers, Joysen Jhurry, 41, and Mohammad Ali, 42, moving the drug-filled suitcases off an inbound flight from Brazil and placing them on baggage carousels for domestic arrivals.
It was then the cases would be picked up by the couriers without having been through customs controls.
The criminal operation was brought to an end in December 2016 following an 18 month investigation led by the National Crime Agency, with support from Border Force and Heathrow Airport, during which over 100 kilos of cocaine and 44 kilos of cannabis were seized.
Kufuor was found guilty of conspiring to import cocaine in February 2018 and was sentenced yesterday at Southwark Crown Court to six years and three months in prison.
A further 11 members of the network were convicted of having varying roles and were sentenced to a total of over 139 years in April 2018.
Wilfred Owusu, 31, and Michael Sutherland, 48, who organised for the cocaine to be flewn in from Brazil on at least six separate occasions, were both sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Baggage handlers Jhurry and Ali received 16 and 15 years respectively.
NCA regional head of investigations Brendan Foreman said: “Though she was lower in ranking in this criminal network’s hierarchy, Kufuor played a vital role in the conspiracy.
“The organisers relied heavily on her and the other couriers in order to distribute the drugs to dealers and thus profit from their illicit activity.
“Organised criminals involved in drug distribution are often also linked to violence, exploitation and gang culture meaning Kufuor played a part in a longer, more damaging chain.
“Border Force, Airport authorities and the airline community were vital in helping us to stop this organised crime group in its tracks and pull together the evidence which lead to them all being sentenced to significant jail time.”
Border Force Heathrow Director Nick Jariwalla said: “Border Force Officers played a crucial role in this lengthy investigation, helping to bring these individuals to justice.
“They used their in-depth knowledge of the infrastructure at Heathrow to provide invaluable insight to colleagues at the National Crime Agency and the final operation to arrest suspects was very much a joint effort.
“This is just one example of how Border Force officers keep restricted and prohibited items out of the country and prevent them getting into the hands of organised crime groups.”