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Smugglers try to import £5million-worth of drugs to Slough hidden in cheese

Drug smugglers who attempted to import £5million-worth of cannabis into Slough hidden in grated cheese have been jailed.

Henrik Ruben, 28, and Dominic Leeman, 30, both from the Netherlands, were jailed for six years and five-and-a-half years respectively today (Thursday) at Maidstone Crown Court.

They were caught helping to import more than half a tonne of cannabis, which has a street value of more than £5million, hidden in two shipments of grated pizza cheese and salad toppings to two warehouses on the Slough Trading Estate.

The pair were intercepted at Dover Docks by border force officers in April and June 2016 and were found guilty of conspiring to import drugs yesterday.

Boxes full of cannabis were hidden in shipments of grated cheese.

They were part of an organised crime group that ran two units at the trading estate – the largest in Europe – where the drugs shipped from the Netherlands were unpacked and the cheese sent back to be used again.

They imported cannabis through a company called Bertus Foods, also known as Global Foods. Ruben made the travel arrangements and Leeman organised the food ‘carousel’.

About £5million-worth of drugs were found by the authorities.

The pair used encrypted phones to communicate, but the National Crime Agency (NCA) were able to access their messages.

One read: “Do I have to put the old cheese in those boxes the product is delivered in?”

Ruben’s phone also contained pictures of herbal cannabis and had cannabis resin on it.

Martin Grace, NCA branch commander, said: “The pair thought they could fool us by disguising cannabis in food shipments and giving fabricated stories to border officials. But we are ready and have tools in place to disrupt drug supply and distribution.

“This is a significant disruption of an organised crime network who were intent on bringing illegal drugs into the UK.

“The cannabis had a street value of more than £5million, which no doubt would have funded further criminality on our streets. We take all importations of illegal drugs seriously. Drug smugglers perpetuate serious violence which spreads throughout supply chains and puts innocent members of the public at risk.  

“Today’s sentencing marks the end of a long investigation, in which we worked closely with Border Force officers. We will continue to work with Border Force to disrupt criminals and protect the UK from harm.”

The shipments were taken to two warehouses at Slough Trading Estate.

Nick Drinkal, director of Border Force South East and Europe, added:

“Border Force’s seizures took a substantial quantity of cannabis off the streets and out of the hands of those who seek to profit from illegal drugs.

“Border Force will continue to work with our law enforcement partners, both at home and abroad, to tackle drug smuggling and put the criminals responsible for these crimes behind bars.”

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