Three jailed for £2.5m light aircraft cocaine drop in Faversham field
Three men have been jailed at the Old Bailey after using a light aircraft to drop cocaine with a street value of £2.5m over the Kent countryside.
Andrew Barrett, Michael Mealing and Jonathan Hart were being watched by the National Crime Agency before the drop into a field near Faversham last June.
Judge Stephen Kramer QC said it was a "sophisticated and commercial" scheme.
Barrett was jailed for 16 years, Mealing for 12 years and six months, and Hart for 10 years and nine months.
The high-purity cocaine had a wholesale value of more than £1m.
Father-of-three Barrett, 41, of Cheddington, in Buckinghamshire, Mealing, 41, of Corsham, Wiltshire, and Hart, 60, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to importing the drug.
Barrett also admitted possessing class A and B drugs with intent to supply and money laundering.
Together the men plotted drop-off sites and carried out reconnaissance, unaware they were under surveillance.
All three were arrested within hours of picking the cargo up on 23 June 2016.
In the boot of a car driven by Mealing and Hart to a builder's yard in Faversham, investigators found 31kg of cocaine in three fuel containers packaged with heavy-duty tape.
Barrett was spotted in Watford in a white van and apprehended.
In the van was 18kg of cocaine, 1kg of MDMA and 15kg of cannabis.
The stash had a combined street value of more than £1.5m, the court heard.
Speaking after they were sentenced Steve McIntyre, from the National Crime Agency's Border Policing Command, said the gang had "attempted to exploit perceived weaknesses in border controls".