Three members of an organised crime group who tried to fly class A drugs worth around £12 million into the UK have been given prison sentences totalling 52 years.
When the group’s rented helicopter flew from Belgium into Redhill Aerodrome in Surrey on Thursday 21 April this year it was being tracked as part of an investigation involving the National Crime Agency, Metropolitan Police, Border Force, and the Dutch and Belgian authorities.
The pilot, who was taking flying lessons in the UK, dropped under radar coverage deliberately and made an unscheduled stop in the Yalding area of Kent, before resuming the journey.
Shortly after he landed at Redhill, National Crime Agency officers moved in and arrested Dutch pilot Niels Wartenbergh, 28, along with passenger Ricardo Vorstenbosch, 27.
Meanwhile Metropolitan Police officers pulled over a hired silver BMW as it travelled towards London on the M26 motorway and arrested the driver Joseph Peel, 39, from North Kensington.
They recovered six holdalls from the boot containing around 43 kilos of cocaine and 60 kilos of heroin. Officers also seized more than 30 encrypted mobile phones that had been brought in with the drugs.
Tracking data supplied by the car hire company showed the vehicle had been in the Yalding area at the same time as the helicopter. Later the same day Dutch police carried out a searches at the home of Vorstenbosch in Eindhoven in the Netherlands and uncovered a further 3 kilos of cocaine, a drug press, vacuum packing machines and a firearm.
All three men pleaded guilty to conspiring to import class A drugs and today Wartenbergh and Vorstenbosch were sentenced to 18 years in prison each, while Peel was sentenced to 16 years.