Drug smuggling sentences slashed
CRIMINALS, including a man from Iver, who were handed sentences totalling more than 70 years for plots involving a vast amount of smuggled cocaine have had their terms slashed on appeal.
The group was jailed in March last year after police intercepted £11 million worth of cocaine, which had been smuggled into the UK from Mexico City in 2013.
The conspiracy involved corrupt British Airways staff, who helped the criminals bypass security arrangements at Heathrow.
Centrally involved Harvinder Sanghera, 34, Hounslow, and Savdeep Singh Atkar, 34, of Lodge Lane, Grays, admitted conspiracy to import drugs.
Below them in the hierarchy, David Brown, 52, of Stevenage, and Stephen O’Meara, 32, of Chequers Lane, Iver, admitted a plot to supply.
Sanghera got 30 years and Atkar 21 years, while Brown and former professional boxer O’Meara received 13-year terms at Southwark Crown Court.
They appealed last week and, after taking time to consider the case, top judges returned to court to slash the men’s sentences.
“This was a very serious conspiracy involving – in the cases of Sanghera and Atkar – nearly 40kg of high purity cocaine, a relatively sophisticated international smuggling operation extending over several months, and the corruption of airport staff,” said Lord Justice Bean.
“We agree with all the judge’s observations about the aggravating features of the case. Nevertheless, we have come to the conclusion each of their sentences should be reduced.”
Sanghera’s term was cut to 26 years, Atkar’s to 19 years and Brown and O’Meara’s sentences reduced to 11 years at the Court of Appeal.
Giving judgment, Lord Justice Bean, sitting with Mr Justice Sweeney and Judge David Griffith-Jones, outlined the methods the gang had used.
Drugs had been disguised as innocuous packages and flown on British Airways flights from Mexico City to Heathrow.
Once there, they were spirited past security to warehouses, from which couriers collected them for cutting and onward distribution.
Two police operations in 2013 resulted in the seizure of 40kg of cocaine, with a wholesale value of £2m and street value of £11m.
Sanghera and Atkar were said to be leading participants in the smuggling plot, with Sanghera above Atkar.
Sanghera had also admitted involvement with 100 rounds of smuggled 9mm ammunition which was seized by police.