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Monday, 16 May 2011

Three men have been jailed for a total of over 62 years for their part in smuggling £9 million worth of cocaine and eight million cigarettes into the country.

Mark Howie, 46, of Poole, Dorset, and Andrew Kinnaird, 47, of High Brooms Road, Tunbridge Wells, were each sentenced to 22 years.

They denied smuggling the drugs but were convicted.

Derek Tunstead, 41, of Eltham, who admitted both charges, was sentenced to 18-and-a-half years.

Howie and Kinnaird also denied conspiracy to cheat the revenue by evading duty on the cigarettes but were convicted, along with Lee Garton, 54, of Fair Lawn, Chestfield, Whitstable.

Garton, who did not give evidence during the eight-week trial, was jailed for four-and-a-half years.

He had previously served a 14-year sentence for armed robbery.

Gary Pucknell, 29, of Grays, Essex, was acquitted of the drug smuggling charge.

The jury could not reach a verdict on David Kelly, 66, of Lostock Gralam, Cheshire, on the drug smuggling charge and there will be a retrial on October 31.

Maidstone Crown Court heard the cocaine was smuggled into the country in a consignment of bananas bound for a supermarket.

Nearly 37 kilos of the drug was discovered in two large bags on top of containers after arriving from Ecuador at Tilbury docks in Essex.

Also smuggled into the UK on another occasion were over eight million cigarettes. The duty evaded was more than £1.2 million.

Shane Collery, prosecuting, said Howie was a successful property developer whose went bankrupt and turned to crime.

Kinnaird and Tunstead were employed in haulage but were sacked because of his involvement in theft. Pucknell worked in freight.

The cocaine smuggled was a valuable consignment, ranging from 62 per cent to 78 per cent in purity before being “cut” for distribution on the street.

It was discovered with the bananas in Luton, Bedfordshire, having been smuggled from Ecuador.

The millions of cigarettes were smuggled in June 2009 and it was intended to bring in “an awful lot more”, said Mr Collery.

They arrived in the country in containers from the United Arab Emirates.

The documentation stated the load contained children’s clothing.

Judge Jeremy Gold QC told Howie, Kinnaird and Tunstead: “All three of your are professional criminals who decided to involve yourselves in sophisticated crime for potentially huge profits.

“Your only concern was making money with no thought of the consequences to others.

“The proliferation of Class A drugs leads to misery on a scale which is not often appreciated. It increases crime, ruins people’s lives and threatens the fabric of our society.”

The judge said Howie had been a successful property developer who turned to crime “with enthusiasm” when his business failed.

He had access to substantial sums of money to finance the criminal enterprise.

All three made a deliberate and calculated decision to turn to a life of crime.

“You have to clearly understand the stakes are high and the penalties are very significant,” he said. “There has to be an element of deterrence in the sentences.”

Garton, he said, had declined to engage in the court process, failing to give evidence or an explanation in interviews.

Garton’s brother John Garton was earlier jailed for 14 days for hurling vile abuse at jurors outside the courtroom.

John Greenan, defending, said the 51-year-old painter and decorator, who admitted contempt of court, had been “wound up” by the jury’s guilty verdict returned on Thursday on his brother.

Mr Greenan said Garton, of Gipsey Road, Welling, had been surprised to see jurors return the next day for the sentencing hearing.

He had accused them of “coming to gloat” and swore at a woman juror in a nearby car park.

Judge Jeremy Gold QC told Garton: “You must understand jurors have a difficult job to do.

"They come along and give up their time and sit in judgement of people.

“It is difficult and stressful and the last thing they want is to be abused by a member of a family. It is a serious contempt of court. Abusing jurors on three occasions is simply not excusable.

“I will take a lenient view and impose 14 days imprisonment.”


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