Three convicted after using removal company as drug smuggling front
- Credit: National Crime Agency
Three men, including one from north Essex, have been convicted for using a removal firm as a front for a major drug smuggling operation.
Following a National Crime Agency Investigation, Mark Youell, 64, from Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, Alfred Rumbold, aged 65, from Orpington, Kent, and Brian Wright, 73 from Folkestone, Kent, have been convicted of conspiring to Import class A drugs.
The men were unaware that they were being covertly observed by the National Crime Agency so held a series of meetings with a Merseyside-based organised crime group.
Covert listening devices were deployed, which captured Youell telling Rumbold and Wright "We're gonna hit the jackpot", and that they would make "mega dough".
A week later, Wright drove his lorry to the Netherlands and collected the drugs, which had been hidden inside fish tanks.
However, when he attempted the crossing with his cargo the NCA and Dutch law enforcement conducted a raid, finding 20.5 kilos of heroin, 32 kilos of cocaine and three kilos of MDMA.
The NCA believes these drugs would have had a UK street value of more than £4 million.
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Simultaneously, NCA officers moved in on Youell and Rumbold, arresting them at their homes in Essex and Kent respectively and seizing a selection of encrypted phones.
These revealed that Rumbold was discussing moving drugs across Europe with numerous criminals.
Youell and Rumbold denied drug importation charges, claiming they had only been seeking to smuggle alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco and cannabis.
Wright denied any knowledge of the drugs, claiming he was just transporting furniture.
Following a seven-week trial at Isleworth Crown Court, all the men were convicted of conspiring to import class A drugs.
They will be sentenced on November 26.
The National Crime Agency's head of investigations Peter Stevens said: “This conspiracy involved a significant amount of drugs which were destined for the streets of the UK, where they would have been distributed by criminal gangs involved in violence and exploitation.
“Through the NCA’s covert investigation into their activities we were able to prove the crime group stood to make huge profits for themselves.
“This investigation also shows the benefit of international co-operation when it comes to stopping drug supply, which is a priority for the NCA. I’m grateful for the support of our Dutch partners in securing these convictions.”