Three jailed for £2.5m light aircraft cocaine drop in Faversham field

From left: Andrew Barrett, Michael Mealing, Jonathan Hart Image copyright National Crime Agency
Image caption From left to right: Andrew Barrett, Michael Mealing, and Jonathan Hart pleaded guilty to importing cocaine

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.

Image copyright National Crime Agency
Image caption Cocaine was recovered from three large fuel containers packaged with tape capable of withstanding a drop from the air

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.

Image copyright National Crime Agency
Image caption The gang plotted prospective landing and drop off sites in Kent on a map

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".

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