Seven men have been charged after major NCA-led drugs and corruption operation at Sheerness port.
In the early hours of Monday morning (20th December) a cordon was put around the port and more than one hundred officers – including the NCA’s Armed Operations Unit and specialist firearms teams from Kent Police – moved in to carry out the strike.
The operation follows an National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation into a group suspected of plotting with a port worker to smuggle significant amounts of class A into the UK drugs market through Sheerness.
The investigation has been supported by Border Force and carried out with the co-operation of the port operator.
‘Insider threat’ or ‘corrupt enablers’ are a priority for the NCA. Selling knowledge of systems or allowing access to restricted areas allows OCGs to smuggle illicit commodities such as firearms or drugs, or the movement of vulnerable people and children through organised immigration crime.
The operation saw a 27-year-old man who worked as a security guard at the port arrested alongside five others.
A seventh man was detained at his home in Hertfordshire.
A number of properties were searched following the arrests.
After being questioned by NCA investigators all seven were charged with conspiring to import class A drugs last night, and were set to appear before Medway Magistrates on Tuesday 21st December. All seven were remanded in custody until their next appearance at Maidstone Crown Court on Tuesday, 18th January 2022.
The men charged are: Sam Elphick, 27, of Melody Close, Warden, Sheppey; Michael Turner, 54, of Buntingford, Herts; Joel McCaughey, 31, of Castlefield, Manchester; Darren Laurie, 50, of no fixed address; Kyle Davidson, 30, of Buntingford, Herts; Ian Woodward, 33, of Ware, Herts and Danny Laird, 38, of Buntingford, Herts
NCA investigators believe the drugs had arrived on a boat from Costa Rica and were hidden inside a shipment of bananas. The haul has an estimated street value of more than £90 million.
The investigation continues and anyone with information or suspicions about this type of activity is urged to contact Crimestoppers anonymously or the police via 101.
This seizure has prevented a significant amount of dangerous drugs from ending up on our streets
NCA Regional Head of Investigation Jacque Beer said: “Our investigation has focused on what we believe to be a dangerous group intent on importing large amounts of drugs to the UK, using insider contacts within the port. We know that criminal gangs target insiders within ports and airport for their knowledge and access.”
“While it is rare, when it happens it represents a disproportionately large threat, which is why it is such a focus for the NCA. We believe this activity has thwarted those intentions and led to the dismantling of the network involved. This was a major operation involving a large number of law enforcement officers from the NCA, our Kent Police colleagues and Border Force, who I’d like to thank for their assistance, as well as the port operator.Working together we are determined to do all we can to protect the security and integrity of the UK border.”
Minister for Security and Borders Damian Hinds said “This seizure has prevented a significant amount of dangerous drugs from ending up on our streets, which not only reduces the harm they cause to communities but also makes a huge dent in the profits of smugglers. Joint working, including intelligence sharing, between our Border Force officers, the NCA and wider law enforcement partners is essential to preventing drug trafficking like this.”
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel also made a comment on the operation “Excellent joint operation by officers from UK Home Office Border Force, NCA and Kent Police that’s kept this 1.2 tonne haul worth £90m off our streets. We’re protecting our neighbourhoods from the harm caused by illegal substances like these”.
Let’s hop she can now focus on the immigration issue which she appears to have forgotten about!
With 1.2 tonnes of cocaine, someone was planning a rather big Christmas party!