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Gang posing as furniture removal firm smuggled £135m worth of drugs into UK

Members of an organised crime gang which imported at least £135m worth of drugs into the UK under the guise of a furniture removal company face years behind bars.

The gang, which operated from the West Midlands, brought nearly two tonnes of cocaine, heroin and ketamine into the UK through ports using a furniture removal company as a front, West Midlands Police said.

The four men used dummy loads of furniture to hide packages of drugs in lorries and vans - some of which had hidden compartments.

The force said ringleader Jonathan Arnold enjoyed a life of luxury, including trips to Dubai where he filmed himself driving a Ferrari.

The gang was brought down after a number of drug seizures between January and June last year.

During a drug run to Europe in a real estate removals van in January, one of their couriers (who cannot be named for legal reasons) had his van searched by French customs officers, who found 63 blocks of cocaine along with 99 bags of ketamine, which had a UK wholesale value of more than £2.5m, police said.

The largest seizure came in April when the gang tried to bring in 1,477 kilos, of cocaine with a street value of around £118m, into Portsmouth hidden among bananas, but the drugs were seized by Dutch police officers on a ship which had travelled from Colombia to the Netherlands.

In June, another of the gang's drivers, Connor Fletcher, travelled to a town near Amsterdam for an overnight trip and returned with 60 kilos of cocaine hidden in two secret compartments built into the floor of the lorry.

West Midlands Police's investigation had linked him to the gang so the force asked Border Force to intercept him on his return and he was arrested.

Four men face years behind bars

Arnold, 29, of Cremorne Road, Sutton Coldfield, admitted four charges of conspiracy to import and supply drugs, namely heroin and ketamine.

James Jenkins, 25, of Lichfield Steet, Tamworth, was found guilty of two charges of conspiracy to supply and import cocaine.

Connor Fletcher, 25, of Bridgnorth Road, Wolverhampton, and Humayan Sadiq, 43, of Manchester, were both found guilty of conspiring to import cocaine.

The force said Jenkins supervised the operation, Fletcher was a driver and Sadiq had planned to move the cocaine brought into Portsmouth from Colombia.

Jack Bishop, 31, and Ryan Hatton, 27, both from Staffordshire, were found not guilty of the drugs charges against them.

Detective Chief Superintendant Jenny Skyrme said: "We can't underestimate the scale and significance of this criminal organisation. This is the biggest drugs case that we have ever dealt with as an organisation.

"The gang was operating at the highest levels of criminality, bringing in industrial quantities of drugs to sell on the streets of the West Midlands and beyond.

"As the head of the crime group, Jonathan Arnold enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, driving luxury cars and enjoying trips to Dubai.

"He gave the impression that he was a legitimate businessman with a small firm which moved furniture and had a turnover of £50,000 a month.

"The reality was that he was arranging tens of millions of pounds worth of drugs to be imported into the UK from Europe and South America, which would have gone on to cause untold misery and significant harm to communities."

The men will be sentenced at a later date.