Essex: Pair jailed for �2.5m cannabis plot

A COLCHESTER duo have been jailed for plotting to smuggle �2.5m of cannabis through Harwich port.

Joseph Buckley and Carl Fithon - together with Birmingham-based Michael Winnitt - were sentenced to a total of 27-and-a-half years behind bars.

The cannabis - which had an estimated street value of �2.5m - was discovered inside hollowed out concrete slabs, which had arrived on an unaccompanied trailer from Holland.

Buckley, 33, of John Mace Road, was arrested when he arrived at the port to collect the trailer. He told police was collecting the pallets for Fithon, 31, his partner in delivery business Secure Transport.

Police and UK Border Agency officials later raided the company’s address in Earls Colne Business Park where they found 150 cannabis plants.

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Officers also found evidence that concrete had been delivered to Winnitt’s Midlands premises, where they found hollowed out slabs identical to the ones uncovered at Harwich.

Buckley and Winnitt were found guilty of cannabis importation following an eight-day trial at Ipswich Crown Court. Fithon had early admitted one charge of importing the class B drug. He, like Buckley, had pleaded guilty to one charge of cannabis cultivation.

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Buckley was given a 11-year jail term and Fithon seven-and-a-half years. while Winnitt, of Wood Lane, Handsworth Wood, Birmingham, received a nine-year sentence.

Malcolm Bragg, assistant director of the UK Border Agency’s crime directorate, said: “These three men were all heavily involved in the drugs trade - they were not bit part players.

“This was the biggest seizure of cannabis made at Harwich in 2010 and I am delighted that we have brought the criminals responsible to justice.

“The UK Border Agency is determined to combat drug trafficking which has such a destructive impact on the lives of so many.”

Detective constable Phil Weedon, of Essex Police, said: “Together these men conspired to import and cultivate large quantities of cannabis.

“They considered themselves above the law, hiding drugs in concrete slabs and attempting to smuggle them into the country, but were quickly stopped in their tracks.

“Today, after a complex investigation with our colleagues at the UK Border Agency, they have been brought to justice and face time behind bars.

“Drugs do nothing but cause harm in our communities. We will not tolerate people smuggling or dealing them in our county and are pleased that these men and a large quantity of cannabis have been taken off the streets of Essex.”

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