16 November 2018
A corrupt UK border officer has been jailed for 23 years for attempting to smuggle firearms and drugs into the UK, following a joint investigation involving the National Crime Agency, Metropolitan Police and French police.
Simon Pellett (above left), 37, from Dover was on duty when he was arrested by officers from the French National Police on Friday 6 October 2017.
Earlier that day he had collected a work van from his office in Folkestone and got on a Channel Tunnel shuttle service.
But he was unaware the NCA had placed a listening device in the van, and as he drove he was heard making arrangements to rendezvous with other members of the crime group in Loon Plage, between Calais and Dunkirk.
Today he was jailed at Isleworth Crown Court for 23 years.
He met Alex Howard (above right), 35 and from Sittingbourne, and David Baker (above centre), 55 from Eltham, for a handover in a supermarket car park. The two men had just placed three holdalls in the back of his van when French officers moved in to arrest them. They were jailed for 10 years and 20 years respectively.
The holdalls contained eight pistols, two revolvers, a large quantity of ammunition, 28 kgs of cocaine with a potential street value of £2.8 million, and 6 kgs of heroin with a potential street value of £600,000.
The firearms included self-loading and machine pistols, revolvers, silencers and suitable ammunition. There was also ammunition suitable for a Skorpion sub-machine gun.
Following their arrest all three men were extradited from France back to the UK.
Their trial at Isleworth Crown Court heard how the defendants played a key part in a wider organised criminal network responsible for smuggling drugs and firearms into the UK. Pellett was recuited to help them evade border controls, his motivation for involvement being a significant gambling habit.
Investigators believe he would have been paid around £20,000 for the smuggling run.
On Monday 12 November the jury found Pellett and Baker guilty of attempting to import firearms, heroin and cocaine. Pellett was additionally found guilty of misconduct in a public office. The following day Howard was found guilty of drug importation charges but cleared of the firearms charge.
David Rock from the NCA’s Anti-Corruption Unit said:
“As a border officer, Pellet’s job was to prevent the illegal importation of goods into the UK, including firearms and drugs.
“He had the power to arrest anyone suspected of being involved in this type of crime, yet his personal greed made him susceptible to corruption and allowed him to be exploited by a UK-based organised crime group.
“Corruption at the border threatens the safety and security of the UK, which is why tackling it is such a priority for the NCA and law enforcement partners.
“This operation involved close collaboration between the British and French authorities and is a prime example of our international efforts to tackle cross-border organised crime.”
Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Sam Cailes from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command said:
“This has been a complex and highly-successful joint operation that has effectively removed a criminal network, which included a serving corrupt Border Force official. We are committed to reducing the number of firearms entering the UK and potentially ending up in the hands of violent criminals. The removal of these weapons and drugs has reduced a significant threat to London’s communities.
Detective Superintendent Neil Ballard from the Met's Specialist Crime Command added:
"Our continued work with other agencies - both domestic and international - to deter organised criminality is having a real impact on making London safer for those who live and work here. We will relentlessly pursue people who are involved in the supply and possession of firearms and drugs and bring them to justice.”