West Midlands drugs gang posed as furniture removal firm to smuggle cocaine from Columbia
Drug smuggler Jonathan Arnold from Sutton Coldfield and his accomplices have been jailed after they were caught posing as a furniture removal firm
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Four members of an organised criminal gang have been sentenced for conspiring together to bring millions of pounds worth of illegal drugs hidden among bananas and furniture into the UK.
The CPS authorised charges against the defendants and prepared the case for court following a thorough investigation by the West Midlands Police Regional Organised Crime Unit and the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The gang was led by Jonathan Arnold, aged 29, from Sutton Coldfield. The other members were James Jenkins, 25, from Tamworth; Humayan Sadiq, 43, from Manchester; and Connor Fletcher, 25, from Wolverhampton. They were all found guilty following a trial at Birmingham Crown Court on May, 19 2023.
Arnold used the guise of his removal business vehicles to collect and transfer the illicit drugs to other Organised Crime Groups for onward distribution. Jenkins assisted Arnold in helping to arrange drivers and acted as a supervisor for the operation, whilst Fletcher was employed as a driver.
Vehicles were loaded with furniture behind which the drugs were concealed. This was intended to provide a cover story to border officials if stopped and the vehicle searched. In April 2022, Arnold was involved in a conspiracy to supply 1477.2 kilos of cocaine, with a street value of approximately £118 million. The drugs had been hidden inside pallets of bananas on board of a ship from Colombia.
The shipment of drugs was destined to arrive via Portsmouth, however, during a planned stop in the Netherlands, the Class A drugs were seized by Dutch Police who informed the UK authorities.
Sadiq was also involved in this having waited outside Portsmouth docks in a car for an unauthorised HGV to enter to collect the drugs from the port and then followed the HGV to a motorway services station north of Winchester. Arnold and others then took over control of the movement of the drugs by road to premises rented by Arnold in Staffordshire.
In June 2022, Fletcher was arrested on his return to Dover from Calais after Border Force discovered 60kg of cocaine concealed within two hides in the lorry he was driving.
What jail sentences did the West Midlands drugs gang led by Jonathan Arnold get?
- James Jenkins, 25, from Tamworth, was sentenced to 15 years in prison
- Humayan Sadiq, 43, from Manchester was sentenced to 27 years in prison
- Connor Fletcher, 25, from Wolverhampton, was sentenced to 12 years in prison
- Jonathan Arnold, 29, from Sutton Coldfield, was sentenced to 23 years and 6 months in prison
‘Jonathan Arnold enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, driving luxury cars and enjoying trips to Dubai’
Detective Chief Superintendent Jenny Skyrme, head of the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit, said: “We can’t underestimate the scale and significance of this criminal organisation. This is the biggest drugs case that we have ever dealt with as an organisation.
“The gang was operating at the highest levels of criminality, bringing in industrial quantities of drugs to sell on the streets of the West Midlands and beyond. As the head of the crime group, Jonathan Arnold enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, driving luxury cars and enjoying trips to Dubai.
“He gave the impression that he was a legitimate businessman with a small firm which moved furniture and had a turnover of £50,000 a month. The reality was that he was arranging tens of millions of pounds worth of drugs to be imported into the UK from Europe and South America, which would have gone on to cause untold misery and significant harm to communities.
“We were able to build a really detailed picture of this operation through mobile phone analysis, CCTV and other intelligence. Working with the National Crime Agency, Border Force, and law enforcement abroad, we’ve been able to put the gang behind bars where they will spend many years.”
‘A sophisticated criminal operation’
Tim Burton, Specialist Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “This was a sophisticated criminal operation and the amount of drugs this gang was attempting to import into the country was colossal. These drugs were intended to be put into the hands of other crime groups.
“Had everyone involved in this criminal activity been successful, millions of pounds worth of drugs could have ended up on the streets of UK towns and cities causing public harm. The CPS worked closely with the NCA and West Midlands Police Regional Organised Crime Unit to build a strong case resulting in their conviction, disrupting the trafficking of drugs into the country.”