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CCTV Instrumental In Major British Airways Drug Bust

CCTV Instrumental In Major British Airways Drug Bust
27 April 2018 | Updated 08 January 2021

CCTV has been utilised by the police to first arrest and then convict an 'airport insider' cocaine smuggling ring. The members of the ring are now serving 139 years in jail between them.

A criminal network used the corrupt baggage handlers to smuggle at least £16 million worth of drugs through London’s Heathrow Airport.

Surveillance officers watched on CCTV as a British Airways baggage handler, assisted by his colleague, arranged to move suitcases containing the drugs off planes  that had flown in from Brazil and have them placed on baggage carousels for domestic arrivals.

The bags would then be collected by couriers arriving on internal fights from other airports in the UK, who could exit Heathrow domestic arrivals without going through customs controls.

CCTV was also instrumental in observing these couriers as they arrived - and as they were arrested.



Eight members of the network were arrested in dawn raids across London on 14 December 2016 with three more taken in to custody on 16 December 2016. All 11 were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on 17 April 2018 following two separate trials (one at Southwark and one at Kingston Crown Court).

In total is was 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 was seized.


Those involved

Around the time of each flight, the baggage handler was in phone contact with a person who acted as the intermediary between him and the organisers.

Three couriers received a text containing a photo of the suitcase they were due to pick up. Each was arrested on separate occasions by either Border Force or NCA officers as they attempted to leave the airport concourse - having been captured on CCTV footage.

In charge of the drug importations and onward distribution were several individuals who organised for cocaine to be flown in from Brazil on at least six separate occasions.


Phone logs

Amongst the other evidence used to convict the group was a series of call logs highlighting the constant contact between numbers in Brazil and the organisers.

Members of the group were also filmed by NCA officers meeting on numerous occasions, either at each other’s houses or in public places, to discuss their criminal business.


National Crime Agency

NCA regional head of investigations Brendan Foreman said: “This was a sophisticated plot and at the centre of it was a man who used his privileged access to Heathrow and insider knowledge of the airport’s systems for criminal purposes.

“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 being sentenced to significant jail time today.”

Picture: a baggage handler in a hurry to move a suitcase full of drugs from an international baggage carousel to an internal flight carousel - which meant the bag could be collected by a courier and without passing through customs.

Article written by Brian Shillibeer | Published 27 April 2018


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