Two men jailed for food tin drug importation scam
Two men who attempted to smuggle Class A drugs into the UK through parcels disguised as containing tinned goods have been sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison, following a joint investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service and the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Daniel Kelly, 43 (26.10.78) of no fixed address was sentenced to six and a half years’ imprisonment for fraudulent evasion of a prohibition on the importation of a Class A drug (in essence importation of Class A drugs into the UK).
Steven Gilhooly, 43 (15.08.78) of no fixed address was sentenced to eight and a half years’ imprisonment for fraudulent evasion of a prohibition on the importation of a Class A drug (in essence importation of Class A drugs into the UK).
The pair were sentenced on Wednesday, 12 January at Snaresbook Crown Court.
This comes after Kelly pleaded guilty at the same court on Tuesday, 4 January at the first day of trial, and Gilhooly was found guilty by the jury on Tuesday, 11 January.
The court heard that on the 20 and 24 December 2018, two parcels sent from St Lucia destined for addresses in Charlton and Greenwich in southeast London were seized by customs officials. Though they were described as containing tinned goods (specifically condensed coconut milk and beans), when subjected to forensic examination it was identified that secreted within the first parcel was 1.95kg of cocaine and in the second 792g of cocaine.
An investigation was commenced by the NCA, who identified two British nationals who had travelled to St Lucia in order to facilitate this importation into the United Kingdom. They made an International Letter of Request to Saint Lucian authorities requesting their assistance in this case, leading to vital evidence relating to the offences being obtained.
Enquiries established that officers from the Met’s Trident Team were conducting a separate investigation into the same individuals and a joint operation was commenced between the NCA and Met.
A thorough investigation by officers revealed that in the build-up to this importation, Kelly and Gilhooly had purchased a machine can sealer and blank tin lids, allowing them to reseal tin cans. They had also purchased a number of condiments and items which would be sold in St. Lucia.
On 16 December 2018, both Kelly and Gilhooly had flown from London Gatwick to St Lucia, where on arrival they told officials that they were entering the country for a holiday and it was recorded that they had the can sealer within their luggage.
Officers established that the two parcels later found to contain cocaine were sent from a St. Lucian Post office by Kelly, who used a fake driving licence that had his image but false personal details as identification.
On 23 January 2020, Kelly was arrested from prison where he was serving time for a different offence. On the 9 March 2020, Gilhooly was arrested.
Both Kelly and Gilhooly were charged on 22 April 2021, with being concerned in the fraudulent evasion of a prohibition on the importation of a Class A drug (in essence importation of Class A drugs into the UK).
In total, 2.742kg of cocaine was recovered by officers with an estimated street value of £250,000.
Detective Inspector Matthew Webb from the Metropolitan Police Specialist Crime teams said: “The sentencing is the result of a long-term investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service and our partners. I would like to offer my thanks to the officer in the case, Detective Constable Phil Price, the National Crime Agency, Border Force and Saint Lucian authorities who all worked together with us during the course of this protracted investigation.
“This should send a clear and strong message to those intent on penetrating our borders that offences of this nature are taken very seriously and we will leave no stone unturned in bringing them to justice.
"Both men travelled to St. Lucia with the sole purpose of importing Class A drugs back into the United Kingdom. The miserable effect that drugs supply has on our communities is undeniable and inextricably linked to violence within our communities. Both men were willing to take such risk with this offending – thinking they were beyond the reach of the law and hoping to monetise profits. Instead, they now face hefty prison sentences. I hope this provides them the opportunity to reflect on their behaviour and demonstrates that crime doesn’t pay.”
NCA Branch Commander Mark McCormack said: “We are determined to do all we can to tackle the international organised crime networks bringing class A drugs into the UK, where they are pedalled by the same street gangs we see involved in exploitation and violence.
“These men thought they could circumvent the UK’s border controls by utilising the fast parcel system, but this is a threat we and our law enforcement partners like Border Force and the MPS are alive to. Working with them we were able to stop this plot in its tracks, arrest and prosecute those involved, and prevent these drugs for being sold for criminal profit.”