Drug sisters jailed for 39 years

TWO Dutch sisters have been jailed for a total of 39 years after customs offices foiled their plan to smuggle more than £5million of heroin into the UK through Harwich port.

TWO Dutch sisters have been jailed for a total of 39 years after customs offices foiled their plan to smuggle more than £5million of heroin into the UK through Harwich port.

Jacquline Merceij, 39, and Manon Merceij, 45, who were found guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court last month of attempting to smuggle 114 kilos of heroin concealed inside furniture in the back of a van, have been jailed for 21 years and 18 years respectively.

Passing sentence, His Honour Judge Christopher Ball told the pair: “It is a very depressing occasion considering what the two of you have done.

“It has ruined your lives and those of your families. I had to stop and think of the consequences had you succeeded in your scheme. There would have been a flood of heroin into Britain and hundreds of lives would have been ruined by the drug that you would have made available.

“Drugs are evil and the penalties have to be great to deter others. Regrettably, you contested the case and you must be sentenced in accordance with the guidelines.”

During the two week trial in February, the court heard that on June 25 last year, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) officers stopped a white van that had recently arrived on the ferry from the Hook of Holland.

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The vehicle was driven by Jacquline Merceij, accompanied by Manon Merceij in the passenger seat. When officers opened the back doors they found that the vehicle was carrying a quantity of furniture.

Officers removed some of furniture and discovered a large quantity of drugs, in total they recovered over 114kgs of heroin with a street value in excess of £5m. Both sisters were arrested and charged with smuggling offences.

John Kay, HMRC's head of criminal investigation for Eastern England, said: “This is an excellent result which has kept a huge amount of a very deadly drug off the streets of UK towns and cities.”

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