James Joseph Gray has been sentenced along with accomplices Moynul Hoque and Usman Iqbal after he was caught with 69kg of the drug in his lorry.
The Draperstown man was arrested at Holyhead port in Wales on October 9, 2020, after his vehicle was selected for a random inspection by Border Force Officers.
Caernarfon Crown Court heard that Gray (53) was noticeably anxious and was seen discarding a mobile phone after the lorry was called in for examination.
Gray, who was waiting for a ferry to Dublin, then told the officers “there are four brown boxes in there that I didn’t put there”.
A Crown barrister told the court the lorry was laden with “perishable goods” destined for a major supermarket.
When the officers opened the boxes they asked Gray what was inside but he claimed he didn’t know.
The barrister said they contained 69 packages of cocaine, weighing one kilogram each, with a purity of between 78 and 83 per cent.This gave it a wholesale value of £2.6m and a street value of £5.5m, he told the court.
A Nokia mobile phone recovered helped officers track down Hoque (32) and Iqbal (36) who were also seen on CCTV at a Travelodge in Bristol where the drugs handover took place.
They were also linked to the conspiracy as Hoque had hired a car to travel to Bristol which had a tracking device and booked the room in the hotel using his own name and credit card.
Their movements matched with the telephone calls and messages between them and Gray, the court was told.
Records from the lorry’s refrigeration unit showed Gray had stopped and opened the doors twice to move the packages from the cab of the unit into the trailer.
During police interview, Gray said he thought the packages were tobacco, while Hoque and Iqbal denied any knowledge of the plot.
All three had been due to stand trial but in December they all pleaded guilty to a single charge of exporting a Class A drug.
Gray’s barrister said he was likely acting under the direction of “shadowy figures abroad” and he clearly had no idea what was actually in the packages as he handled the task “so sloppily”.
However, he told Judge Nicola Scaffman that he now fully accepts his guilt and that he only got involved as he was in debt due to tax problems and was “looking easy money”.
The barrister said he had 22 references from people who knew him and previously had been “living a very quiet life in Draperstown”.
He added that Gray had been in jail on remand for the last 18 months and had not received any visits from friends or family.
In a letter from Gray read to the court he said he was “glad the drugs never found their way onto the streets”.
A defence barrister said Iqbal, of Bradliegh Avenue in Essex, showed a “great deal of remorse”.
But added there was no DNA or fingerprint evidence on the boxes of cocaine from Iqbal or Hoque and they were likely put there by an Albanian who is till sought by the National Crime Agency.A barrister for Hoque, of Lockdown House in London, said the offending was “out of character” and that he was not due to “benefit greatly” should the plot have gone to plan.
Sentencing the trio, Judge Scaffman told them they were in “way over their heads”.
She added that the Border Force and National Crime Agency were to be commended for intercepting the drugs.
Gray, Hoque and Iqbal were each sentenced to five years and seven months in prison, half of which they will serve in custody and half on licence.Tags: