A man from Paraguay has been sentenced after attempting to import cocaine into the UK.
Armando Pascual Formigli Palma, 31, was subject to a routine check by Border Force at Heathrow Airport on 31 July 2023, after disembarking a plane from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
During questioning, he stated that he had planned to stay in London and “see the sights” for the first time, but a subsequent x-ray scan of his luggage revealed purpose-built concealments in two suitcases, which were later found to contain nearly a kilo of cocaine.
He was arrested the same day, and entered a not guilty plea at his first hearing, claiming that he was “given the luggage by [a] criminal organisation”, was “not involved in [the] packaging” of the drugs and was acting under duress.
NCA officers were later able to show that, prior to leaving Brazil, Formigli Palma had been in contact with a second individual, who had sent across a number of documents – a hotel booking voucher, travel insurance and a flight itinerary. That individual is not subject to an NCA investigation.
Formigli Palma’s web history revealed that he had looked up the weather forecast for the capital, and searched “what to take to London in your suitcase”. Four images taken on the device showed a number of plants, suspected to be cannabis or coca, growing from the ground, and a final one showed the offender in a pair of patterned shorts which were later found within one of the suitcases – an indication that, contrary to his statement, he had played a part packing the bags.
Officers processing his phone found no evidence that indicated Formigli Palma had received any threats of physical harm to himself or his family.
Yesterday (29 January) at Winchester Crown Court, he changed his plea to guilty and was sentenced to five years and seven months, after which he will face deportation to Paraguay.
John Turner, Operations Manager, said: “Formigli Palma invented a backstory to try and avoid the consequences of his involvement in the drugs trade, underestimating the determination of our officers to uncover the truth.
“Drug mules like him play a crucial role in the business model of organised criminals, who fuel violence and exploitation across the UK.
“Formigli Palma’s sentence today shows that the NCA, along with our partners in Border Force, will work tirelessly to dismantle the drugs supply chain and bring all those involved to justice.”
Danny Hewitt, Director, Border Force said: “Illegal drugs ruin lives, and this example demonstrates Border Force's commitment to stopping dangerous drugs from being brought into our country.
“Border Force officers continue to work relentlessly to keep the public safe and our borders secure.”
30 January 2024