Harold Hill man jailed for his part in million-dollar drugs smuggling racket
- Credit: Archant
A Harold Hill man has been jailed after he was caught attempting to smuggle class A drugs by stashing them in books he purchased from Harrods department store and asked to be shipped to Australia.
Marc Warner, 52 of Dartfields, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to evade a prohibition on the exportation of a class A drug on Wednesday, August 16, at Isleworth Crown Court alongside 53-year-old Glen Appleby of Weale Road, Chingford.
On Tuesday, October 29, both were sentenced to five years' imprisonment at the same court.
The court heard how on Saturday, March 9 security staff at a high-end department store on Brompton Road became suspicious of two men.
The men, Appleby and Warner, were noted walking into the store just seconds apart.
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Warner was in possession of the department store's shopping bag with items inside.
Each headed to the book department and hid behind a bookshelf.
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Here, Warner decanted the items from the bag and gave the bag to Appleby who put it away in his pocket.
Warner then headed to the till and requested for the two books to be shipped to Australia, paying by cash.
Staff at Harrods became concerned about the order when they noted one book to be in a poor and tired condition and the other book was recognised to have been purchased from store earlier that day.
The men were followed by store security staff.
Upon inspection both books were found to have been hollowed out and contained eight packages of class A drugs.
Police were called and the books and their contents were seized.
Upon examination the packages were found to contain almost 8kgs of 92 per cent pure cocaine with an estimated street value of AUS $1.84m.
CCTV footage from the store was reviewed.
Footage showed that between Monday, January 15 and Wednesday, February 27, the pair had visited Harrods a total of five times, purchasing books and computer games and paying for them to be despatched to Australia.
An investigation was launched by the Central West Gangs unit and Appleby and Warner were identified as being responsible.
Search warrants were executed at the men's respective homes on Thursday, May 30. Both were arrested on suspicion of the exportation of controlled drugs.
They were taken to a Central London police station and charged the following day.
Det Con Colin Moore of the Central West gangs unit said: "Appleby and Warner were a small part of a sophisticated international drugs smuggling gang.
"They sought to exploit the good name of a quintessential British brand in order to smuggle drugs into a lucrative Australian drugs market.
"In doing so they helped fuel violence, addiction and associated criminality both within the UK and abroad.
"I hope that the sentences handed down today act as a deterrent to those who are tempted to get involved in the fringes of organised criminality.
"I would like to commend the diligence and professionalism of the store security staff who directly led to this significant drugs seizure."