Crime & the Law

Drug smuggling gang chief who used children’s presents to smuggle cocaine jailed for 15 years

Drugs disguised in a children's puzzle set. Image: Met Police.

Drugs disguised in a children’s puzzle set. Image: Met Police.

The head of an international drug smuggling gang which disguised £5 million-worth of cocaine as children’s presents has been sentenced to 15 years in jail.

44 year old Raheem Bailey from Southwest Road, Leytonstone, Waltham Forest was imprisoned at Snaresbrook Crown Court Friday, 22nd May.

Raheem Bailey jailed for 15 years at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

Raheem Bailey jailed for 15 years at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

He’s the last member of the gang to be sentenced.

Seven of his cohorts have already been sentenced to a total of 82 years in jail for their part in the conspiracy spanning the Caribbean, Europe and the UK.

An eighth person received a suspended sentence.

Bailey arranged the importation of drugs from the Caribbean to the UK, via Belgium and Holland, between April 2014 and July 2014.

His smuggling ring was broken up by the MPS Central Task Force, Border Force and National Crime Agency.

Jigsaw puzzles used to conceal unlawful importation of 'Class A' drugs. Image: Met Police

Jigsaw puzzles used to conceal unlawful importation of ‘Class A’ drugs. Image: Met Police

They mounted an intelligence-led operation which brought the gang’s criminality to a halt.

The London City Airport couriers

City Airport. Image: London City Airport.

City Airport. Image: London City Airport.

They intercepted a number of drug couriers after they touched down at London City Airport.

On 27th April 2014 officers stopped and arrested 39 year old Greg Stoby of Barclay Road, Leytonstone, as he arrived from Rotterdam.

A search of his luggage revealed approximately 8kg of cocaine concealed in a laptop bag and a jigsaw puzzle box, which was wrapped in children’s gift paper.

Officers stopped 27 year old Shauna-Rae Howell of Leybridge Court, Eltham Road, Lewisham as she arrived on a flight later that day.

She was carrying a brand new handbag which felt unusually heavy.

Officers un-stitched the lining, discovering two packages of cocaine.

She was also carrying a waterproof box and a gift-wrapped jigsaw puzzle box crammed with more cocaine.

Howell was carrying approximately 7kg of the drug and was arrested.

Officers stopped a number of gang members as they tried to take thousands of Euros to Brussels, where it’s believed they would have been used to pay for drugs and fund travel arrangements.

The Heathrow Airport courier

On 3rd June 2014, officers stopped 34 year old Wesley Headley, of Mallard Close, Hackney, as he tried to board a plane at Heathrow Airport.

"Heathrow LON 04 07 77" by Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz (Mariordo) - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Heathrow LON 04 07 77” by Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz (Mariordo) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

They seized approximately €141,000 concealed in his suitcase, under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).

The Eurostar Terminal courier

On 8th June 2014, they stopped 25 year old Atarah Pinder  of Paddick Close, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire at the Eurostar terminal in London.

Eurostar Terminal. Image: St Pancras Station.

Eurostar Terminal. Image: St Pancras Station.

A search of her luggage revealed approximately €56,000 in cash, which the officers seized under the POCA.

Following these failed smuggling attempts, Bailey began importing the drugs directly from the Caribbean but again was thwarted by the MPS and Border Force on a day of coordinated arrest warrants.

The Gatwick Airport couriers

On 3rd July 2014, husband and wife 64 year old Helmut Rutke and 53 year old Britta Rutke, both from Geschwister-Witonski-Strasse in Hamburg, Germany, flew from the Caribbean to London Gatwick to meet Bailey.

Boarding gate at Gatwick Airport. Image: Gatwick Airport.

Boarding gate at Gatwick Airport. Image: Gatwick Airport.

Officers intercepted them when they arrived shortly before 8 in the morning.

Concealed within their suitcases was almost 8 kg of cocaine – some of which had been in hidden in false bottoms of the suitcases.

When Bailey arrived to collect the drugs, he too was arrested.

Officers searched Bailey’s safe house in Sydenham and found a drugs lab set up in the kitchen.

They recovered approximately 451 g of crack cocaine, approximately 1 kg of cannabis, a currency converter and approximately £81,000 in cash.

That day they also arrested Wesley Headley and Atarah Pinder at their home addresses.

Headley failed to flush around 13 g of heroin, 14 g of crack cocaine and a Rolex watch down the toilet as police entered the house.

Another two gang members – 47 year old Andrew Stephenson of Bushey House, Eltham, Greenwich and 25 year old Darren Sappleton of Whinchat Road, Thamesmead, Greenwich – who had recruited the drugs couriers and arranged their travel, were also arrested that day.

Detective Constable Mike Stonehouse from the Met’s Central Task Force said:

This joint operation was lengthy and complex. It has prevented millions of pounds-worth of illegal drugs flooding UK streets, spreading misery in our communities.

An international and highly organised crime group has also been put behind bars. This illustrates our determination to catch the people at the top of these criminal networks, those managing the smuggling, and those who are physically bringing the drugs into the UK.

On 25th July 2013, Sappleton was also arrested by National Crime Agency officers in relation to a separate case of importation of cocaine.

This trial was heard alongside the conspiracy involving Bailey at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

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