A member of an organised crime group has been jailed for his involvement in an attempt to import cocaine worth £9.2 million into the north east of England.
Polish national Lucasz Sienkiewicz, 37, was arrested after National Crime Agency investigators were able to link him to a seizure at The Port of Tyne, North Shields, in October 2018.
Border Force officers had stopped a lorry delivering machine parts from the Netherlands, and discovered blocks of cocaine in the spare tyres from an x-ray of the vehicle.
The blocks were concealed in packages and collectively weighed 115 kilograms. If cut and sold on the streets of the UK, the contents would have been worth in the region of £9.2 million. It is the largest seizure of cocaine ever made at The Port of Tyne.
Data recovered by NCA officers from the lorry driver’s phone showed contact with Sienkiewicz, who was near the port in another vehicle on the same day.
Sienkiewicz was arrested at his home in Benwell, Newcastle, two months later.
Investigators were able to piece further information together when they recovered phones belonging to Sienkiewicz, including an encrypted EncroChat handset.
Messages suggested that Sienkiewicz would take delivery of and distribute the cocaine via organised crime links in the UK.
NCA forensic experts were able to prove that various messages – alluding to earnings, reimbursement and contact with a Dutch associate – had been deleted.
The messages also showed that Sienkiewicz had gone out of his way to purchase second-hand tyres in the UK. These were found to be replacements for those that contained the drugs on the lorry.
Reporting restrictions on the case were lifted on Thursday (14 September) after a jury could not reach a majority verdict in the re-trial of the lorry driver.
Sienkiewicz was convicted by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court on 8 July last year for attempting to import cocaine, and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment at the same court on 7 November.
A number of other members of the OCG, all Polish nationals, were convicted in the Netherlands last year. The Dutch-based members of the gang were responsible for concealing the cocaine in the tyres and getting it transported to the UK.
NCA Branch Commander Julie Booker said: “Sienkiewicz was part of an organised crime network trafficking cocaine into the UK and distributing it across the north east of England.
“The NCA is determined to protect the public from the global trade in illegal drugs, which fuels violence, intimidation and exploitation in communities throughout the UK.
“We work in partnership with Border Force at ports and airports to target and disrupt the likes of Sienkiewicz, who play a crucial role in the criminal supply chain.”
Kieren Hamilton, Assistant Director, Border Force North, said: “Drug supply chains are violent and exploitative, degrading neighbourhoods across our country.
“The highly professional Border Force officers deployed at the Port of Tyne in North Shields identified this significant quantity of class A drugs as a result of dedicated operational activity, and utilising in depth search skills to detect a sophisticated concealment.
“The close collaboration between Border Force and NCA colleagues allowed them to develop this detection to an extended investigation which has culminated in the two successful convictions.”
16 September 2023