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UPDATE: Drug dealers who used a helicopter jailed

News   •   Apr 27, 2018 14:40 BST

[Helicopter used to transport the drugs]

A third member of a drug-dealing gang that used a helicopter to transport millions of pounds worth of cocaine from Europe to the UK has been jailed for 12 years.

Dean Francis, 37 (11.08.80) of Knighton Park Road, Lewisham, was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday, 26 April.

Francis was charged with conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and pleaded guilty to the offence in March.

Two other men who were part of a drug-dealing gang that used a helicopter to transport £7 million worth of cocaine from Europe to the UK have been sentenced to a combined total of 25 years in jail.

At Southwark Crown Court on Monday, 23 April, Federic Fagnoul, 50 (09.05.67) of Fennieres, Belgium - who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import Class A drugs and conspiracy to supply Class A drugs - was sentenced to 17-and-a-half years’ imprisonment.

John Bolter, 36 (25.04.81) of Effort Street, Tooting, was sentenced to seven-a-half-years’ imprisonment.

As part of a proactive investigation, detectives from the Met’s Organised Crime Command identified Belgium national Federic Fagnoul, who had established an importation route via helicopter for the Class A drugs in June 2017.

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

Police enquiries revealed 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.

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 and Fagnoul was seen to remove 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.

On 6 September 2017, police stopped a Nissan Qashqai in Bromley being driven by Bolter. Located within a hidden compartment in the boot 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.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) assisted with the Met’s investigation.

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

"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."