England

Border officer jailed for 23 years for drugs and guns smuggling plot

Simon Pellett, David Baker and Alex Howard Image copyright CPS
Image caption (L-R) Simon Pellett, David Baker and Alex Howard have been jailed

A corrupt UK border official has been jailed for 23 years over a plot to smuggle "a significant haul" of guns and drugs into the country.

Simon Pellett was arrested by French police with 10 handguns, ammunition, heroin and cocaine in October 2017.

Pellett, 37, and David Baker, 55, were convicted at Isleworth Crown Court of attempting to import guns and drugs.

Judge Robin Johnson said it was "a shocking breach of trust". Baker, from Beckenham, was jailed for 20 years.

Alex Howard, 35, from Sittingbourne, who was cleared of the firearms charge but convicted of the drugs offence, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Sentencing, Judge Johnson said: "This was a shocking breach of trust for a man whose job was to protect our border from just this kind of criminal activity.

"These weapons were the tools of the trade for those connected with the drug trade to protect their territories.

"I have no doubt they could have been used to maim or murder."

Image copyright CPS
Image caption These items were loaded on to an unmarked Border Force van driven by Simon Pellett

Pellett, who had been a UK Border Agency official for 12 years, was arrested after a joint investigation involving the National Crime Agency (NCA), Met Police and French police.

The court heard the NCA had placed a listening device in the Border Force van Pellett collected from his office in Folkestone before he got on a Channel Tunnel shuttle service.

He was recorded making arrangements to meet other members of the gang in Loon Plage, between Calais and Dunkirk.

Pellett was on duty, having met Howard and Baker for a handover, when he was caught with holdalls containing eight pistols - including machine pistols - two revolvers and ammunition, together with heroin and cocaine which had a combined street value of £3.4m.

Det Ch Insp Sam Cailes, from the Met Police, said after their conviction: "You would rarely see a haul of weapons this large."

Police said the weapons alone would have had a street value of more than £30,000.

Pellett, from Dover, was also found guilty of misconduct in a public office.

Image copyright NCA
Image caption French police discovered the drugs and weapons after a joint investigation with the National Crime Agency and Met Police

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