Man in court for £3.5m drugs smuggle

A DUTCH man has appeared in court charged with drugs smuggling after an estimated £3.5million worth of suspected illegal substances were seized in Harwich by the newly formed UK Border Agency (UKBA).

Roddy Ashworth

A DUTCH man has appeared in court charged with drugs smuggling after an estimated £3.5million worth of suspected illegal substances were seized in Harwich by the newly formed UK Border Agency (UKBA).

Pieter Van Den Hoek, aged 34, from Brins Clavs Plein 4 Werkendam, Holland, was arrested at the port and stands accused of being knowingly concerned in the importation of prohibited drugs.

Following the discovery of the suspected drugs by the UKBA, the case was passed to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation officers to examine.

Van Den Hoek, who was arrested on Thursday, appeared in court on Friday and was remanded in custody for seven days by Colchester magistrates.

The UKBA found the substances in a vehicle at Harwich and included 52 kgs of tablets, suspected to be ecstasy, and 37 kgs of white powder, thought to be cocaine.

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The seizure of the suspected drugs came just days after two sisters were jailed for a total of 39 years after customs officers foiled their plan to smuggle more than £5 million worth of heroin through Harwich.

Dutch nationals Jacquline Merceij, 40, and her sister Manon Merceij, 46, were sent to prison at Chelmsford Crown Court last month for 21 years and 18 years respectively.

During their two week trial the court heard that HMRC officers had stopped a white van carrying furniture that had arrived on the ferry from the Hook of Holland.

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

In recent months border authorities have intercepted large hauls of smuggled Class A drugs and with the independent Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office (RCPO) have successfully prosecuted a number of cases.

Also last month, a 51-year-old mother of four was jailed for six years after attempting to smuggle nearly two kilos of cocaine through Stansted Airport.

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