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Ballymena lorry driver jailed for smuggling cocaine in shipment of frozen potatoes

A Co Antrim lorry driver has been jailed for smuggling £480,000 of cocaine while delivering a shipment of frozen potatoes from the Netherlands.

The National Crime Agency has opened an investigation into Bryan Anthony Hughes, 30, of Ballymena after his lorry was stopped at the UK entry border in Coquelles, France on October 16, 2021.

Hughes told Border Force officers he had traveled to Tilburg in the Netherlands. His taxi was later searched by officers and eight kilos of cocaine were found inside luggage and in a locker.

National Crime Agency officers estimate the drugs would be worth £480,000 at street level.



Eight kilos of cocaine were found in luggage and in a locker.

The NCA investigation found Hughes had traveled from the Netherlands, having picked up a legitimate shipment of frozen potatoes for delivery to the North West of England.

Questioned by officers, Hughes made no comment but later pleaded guilty to importing a Class A drug at Canterbury Crown Court on December 2, 2021.

He was sentenced to seven years and six months by the same court on Friday.

Mark Howes, NCA Branch Commander, said: “This amount of cocaine would generate significant revenue on the streets of the UK, so this seizure will result in lower profits for the organized crime group it was intended for.

“Criminal groups use smugglers like Hughes to smuggle their drugs into the UK and our message to anyone tempted to try to earn what they might consider easy money through smuggling is that you will be taken.

“We are working closely with our partners, including Border Force, to stop the flow of illicit drugs into the UK and will continue to prosecute those involved.”

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