Pair jailed after £15m of drugs hidden in animal feed delivered to Bridgwater farm

Varun Bhardwaj (L) and Anand Tripathi were both sentenced to 19 years and 15 years respectively. Credit: South West Regional Organised Crime Unit

Two men have been jailed after £15 million of drugs was accidentally delivered to a farm near Bridgwater.

Varun Bhardwaj, 39, and Anand Tripathi, 61, were both sentenced to 19 years and 15 years respectively after they imported cocaine, cannabis and cigarettes into the UK hidden in shipments of perishable goods.

The South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SWROCU) began investigating the case in April 2022 after an unsuspecting farmer near Bridgwater called police after finding unusual kilo-block packages within his normal delivery of animal feed.

More than 180kg of cocaine had been hidden in the feed, but those responsible for the smuggling operation didn't remove them and they were instead delivered to the Somerset farm.

More than 180kg of cocaine had been hidden in the feed. Credit: SWROCU

Anand Tripathi was the director and company secretary of Tatab – a company that facilitates the import and export of goods.

Varun Bhardwaj, who tried to distance himself from Tatab saying he had limited involvement with the company, was found to be the operations manager and reported to Tripathi.

Tatab was just one of a number of companies created or run by Tripathi and Bhardwaj to try to conceal their illegal activities.

In addition to the drugs, between February and October 2022 Tripathi and Bhardwaj imported three shipments of cigarettes – a total of 18,680,000 cigarettes – in containers of Bombay mix, coir fibre and biscuits, with the two men evading the £9.7milllion excise and customs duty which should have been payable.

Cocaine smuggled into the farm. Credit: SWROCU

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Fisher, of SWROCU, said: “The amount seized over a 13-month period goes to show the significant involvement these individuals had in bringing commercial amounts of drugs and cigarettes into the UK.

“These are two very serious criminals who I’m glad to see have been given substantial sentences to reflect the magnitude of their offending.”

Richard Partridge from the Crown Prosecution Service said: “These two men played vital roles in trying to flood UK streets with huge quantities of illegal drugs. The cost and damage to lives that drugs cause in our society is incalculable.

“This conspiracy was only made possible by Anand Tripathi’s experience in importation and customs clearance, and Varun Bhardwaj’s willingness to assume day to day management of their operation.

“There were clearly others involved in the scheme who haven’t yet been identified but this successful operation and their substantial sentences serves as a warning that authorities in the UK work together to disrupt and prosecute smugglers."

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