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Belgian man jailed for 17 years for importing £7 million of cocaine into UK on helicopter

It was estimated that Frederic Fagnoul was importing an estimated 50kg of cocaine on each flight from France.

The helicopter used to transport the drugs
The helicopter used to transport the drugs
Image: Met Police

TWO MEMBERS OF a drug smuggling gang who used a helicopter to fly millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the UK from France have been sentenced to a combined total of 25 years in prison today.

As part of an investigation, detectives from Metropolitan Police’s Organised Crime Command discovered in June 2017 that Belgium national Frederic Fagnoul had established an importation route via helicopter for the drugs.

It was estimated that Fagnoul was importing an estimated 50kg of cocaine on each flight.

The helicopter landed at helipads at two hotels in Kent, where the drugs would then be distributed via car to multiple sellers across the UK, police enquiries revealed.

Fagnoul prepared his flight plan 10 minutes before flying to the UK via Calais to Lydd airport in Kent. The cover story he used when he landed at the hotel was that he had been night fishing.

The helicopter was seized on 12 September 2017. Fagnoul had been seen removing a number of bags from the helicopter and into a hotel room.

A police search of the helicopter revealed a sophisticated hide located under the seats in the main body of the aircraft.

John Bolter and Dean Francis were also identified as part of the drug supply conspiracy.

Arrests

On 6 September 2017, police stopped a Nissan Qashqai car in Bromley being driven by Bolter. Located within a hidden compartment in the moot of the vehicle was 20 kilograms of cocaine, which was seized along with a highly encrypted mobile phone.

Bolter was charged with possession with intent to supply cocaine. He pleaded guilty to this offence at Southwark Crown Court in November 2017 and was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years’ imprisonment.

He was further charged with conspiracy to supply class A drugs and pleaded guilty to this offence in March.

Francis was arrested on 4 October 2017 after he was observed meeting Fagnoul at a hotel in Kent and collecting drugs on 5 September.

Francis was also charged with conspiracy to supply class A drugs and pleaded guilty to this offence in March.

At Southwark Crown Court today, Frederic Fagnoul, of Fennieres, Belgium, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import Class A drugs and conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, was sentenced to 17 years and six months’ imprisonment.

John Bolter, aged 36, of Effort Street Tooting, was sentenced to seven years and six months’ imprisonment.

Dean Francis, aged 37, of Knighton Park Road, Lewisham, will be sentenced on Thursday.

“This was an outstanding investigation by the Organised Crime Command combating a drug-dealing network that spread from Europe to the UK,” Detective Chief Superintendent Mick Gallagher, head of the Met’s Organised Crime Command, said.

“Detailed detective work identified the significant roles these defendants played in the supply of millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the UK. The Organised Crime Command will relentlessly pursue those involved in the supply of class A drugs.”

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