A Dutch drug courier caught trying to smuggle £7m worth of cannabis into the UK through the Port of Tyne has been jailed.
Angelo Javier Raaijmakers, 36, was stopped by Border Force officers on February 7, after the Dutch-registered lorry he was driving arrived in the North Shields port on a ferry from Ijmuiden, Holland.
When officers searched the trailer of the vehicle they discovered packages of the drug hidden inside pallets underneath layers of bark chippings.
In total officers found 1.2 tonnes of cannabis with an estimated street value of between £6.5m and £7.5m.
Raaijmakers, from s-Hertogenbosch, Holland, admitted the offence of attempting to import a Class B drug and was sentenced to five years and three months at Newcastle Crown Court on Thursday, August 27.
Tony McMullin, director of Border Force North, said: “We welcome this sentencing which should send a strong message to the criminals who think they can smuggle drugs into the United Kingdom.
“Border Force officers are on the front line to stop illegal drugs making it onto our streets and causing harm to our communities.”
“As this case demonstrates, we are working with law enforcement colleagues in the National Crime Agency (NCA) to disrupt drug smugglers and put those responsible behind bars.”
Mick Maloney, head of the NCA’s north east border investigation team, said: “This was a significant seizure, and we have brought to justice a man involved in a major attempt to smuggle illegal drugs worth many millions of pounds into the UK.
“Working with Border Force we continue to target couriers like Raaijmakers and disrupt the organised crime groups involved in trafficking illegal substances to the UK.”
Border Force officers use hi-tech search equipment to combat immigration crime and detect banned and restricted goods that smugglers attempt to bring into the country.
They use an array of search techniques including sniffer dogs, carbon dioxide detectors, heartbeat monitors and scanners – as well as visual searches – to find well-hidden stowaways, illegal drugs, firearms and tobacco which would otherwise end up causing harm to local people, businesses and communities.
Anyone with information about activity they suspect may be linked to smuggling should call the smuggling Hotline on 0800 59 5000.