A crime group that used corrupt baggage handlers to smuggle at least £16 million worth of drugs through London’s Heathrow Airport has been sentenced this week to a total of over 139 years in prison.
The drug pipeline was set up by four men: 30-year-old Damion Goodhall, 31-year-old Wilfred Owusu, 52-year-old Mark Agoro, and 48-year-old Michael Sutherland, who organized for cocaine to be flown in from Brazil on at least six separate occasions. They were in charge of the drug importations and onward distribution.
They were heavily supported by 37-year-old Aziz Abdul, a long-time friend of Owusu, and by Sutherland’s assistant, 32-year-old Leiona Townsend-Bartley, who helped out with logistics by liaising with couriers and booking flights or hotels.
The conspiracy was brought to an end in December 2016 following an 18-month investigation led by the National Crime Agency, with support from Border Force and Heathrow Airport, during which over 100 kilos of cocaine and 44 kilos of cannabis was seized.
Surveillance officers watched as British Airways baggage handler Joysen Jhurry assisted by his colleague Mohammad Ali arranged to move suitcases containing the drugs off the plane and have them placed on baggage carousels for domestic arrivals.
Watch surveillance video below:
Around the time of each flight, Jhurry was in phone contact with his right-hand man Preetam Mungrah, who acted as the intermediary between him and the organizers.
The bags would then be collected by couriers arriving on internal fights from other airports in the United Kingdom, who could exit Heathrow domestic arrivals without going through customs controls. Each courier received a text containing a photo of the suitcase they were due to pick up. Each was arrested on separate occasions by either Border Force or NCA officers as they attempted to leave the airport concourse.
Amongst the evidence used to convict the group in 2017 was a series of call logs highlighting the constant contact between numbers in Brazil and the organizers, as well as between them, Jhurry and Mungrah. Members of the group were also filmed by NCA officers meeting on numerous occasions, either at each other’s houses or in public places, to discuss their criminal business.
Eight members of the network were arrested in dawn raids across London on December 14, 2016.
Jhurry, Goodhall, Agoro, Abdul and Awopetu pleaded guilty, but the rest of the group were convicted for their roles in the conspiracy in two separate trials at Kingston and Southwark Crown Courts.
All eleven were sentenced on Tuesday at Southwark Crown Court. Owusu and Sutherland both received 20 years for their leading roles, whilst Agoro was sentenced to 14 and a half years and Goodhall to 11 and a half.
Baggage handlers Jhurry and Ali received 16 and 15 years respectively.
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