Clacton man jailed for role in plot to smuggle drugs in fish tanks
- Credit: NCA
A north Essex man has been jailed for 14 years for his role in using a removal firm as a front for a drug smuggling conspiracy between the UK and the Netherlands.
Mark Youell, 64, from Clacton, was recorded telling Alfred Rumbold, 65, from Kent, and 73-year-old removal driver Brian Wright "we’re gonna hit the jackpot", while plotting to import 55kg of class A drugs inside fish tanks.
The drugs had a street value of £4.5million.
The men were unaware that they were being covertly observed by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and held a series of meetings with an organised crime group based in Merseyside.
In a series of recordings made by the NCA, Youell also told the men that they were going to make "mega dough" in the scheme.
According to the NCA, Wright did a "dummy run" by driving to the Netherlands before carrying out the real plan the following week.
But he was arrested after being found sleeping inside his lorry just outside Utrecht.
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Youell and Rumbold were subsequently arrested at their home addresses.
A total of 20.5kg of heroin, 32kg of cocaine and 3kg of MDMA had been sealed in fish tanks and found by Dutch police following a joint investigation with the NCA.
Both Youell and Rumbold denied drug importation charges, claiming they had only been seeking to smuggle alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco and cannabis.
Wright, who was extradited to the UK from the Netherlands, denied any knowledge of the drugs, claiming he was just transporting furniture.
The trio were found guilty of conspiring to import class A drugs on November 19 following a trial at Isleworth Crown Court in London.
Youell and Rumbold were both sentenced to 14 years in prison, while Wright was handed a 12-year sentence.
NCA regional head of investigations Peter Stevens said: "The sentences handed out today demonstrates just how seriously UK courts take drug trafficking offences and I welcome them.
"The class A drugs seized in this investigation would all have ended up in the hands of UK criminal gangs involved in violence and exploitation, and provided a big payday for Youell, Rumbold and Wright.
"By their own admission they thought they had ‘hit the jackpot’.
"But they weren’t counting on the tenacity and expertise of the NCA officers who, supported by our Dutch partners, watched their every move – even during the height of the UK’s Covid lockdown.
"I hope others involved in this type of activity take notice – we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle the organised criminal networks involved in international drugs supply."