A Colombian gang of drug smugglers, who introduced $35 million worth of cocaine onto the streets of England using plastic bananas to hide the drugs, were sentenced today to a total of 59 years behind bars.
The men, Leonel Hernandez-Gonzalez, 37, Oscar Alberto Grisales-Cuervo, 46, and Daniel Valdes Jaramillo, 24, represented Colombian drug barons who used them to get the cocaine to Europe.
The operation was reportedly a sneaky one, as the men put the cocaine-filed plastic bananas among real bananas, alluding the watchful eye of customs officers for a good while.
Southwark Crown Court was told by prosecutor Ken Millett said, “On 10 July last year following a lengthy, proactive investigation by officers from the Specialist Crime directorate at New Scotland Yard, officer found 100kg of high-grade cocaine at a banana warehouse ripening plant just off the A2 in Kent. Those bananas had been found in a pallet of a consignment of genuine bananas that had been sent on or about 21 June from Colombia.”
When customs understood that something was fishy with the bananas, they contacted the police, who opened an operation to find the men responsible.
Millett explained to the court, “The drugs could not be recovered until a map of the location of the drugs could be obtained from the first two defendants [Grisales Cuervo and Hernandez Gonzalez. That treasure map was later sent from Colombia to Mr Grisales Cuervo and after he consignment had been delivered they met up with Mr Jaramillo at a cafe in Brixton where the details of where the drugs were to be found were handed over.”
Millet added, “As the men left the cafe on 10 July they were arrested by police officers, each were found in possession of a large quantity of mobile phones, including encrypted telephones.”
On sentencing the convinced men, Judge Juliet May said, “The operation required trusted, informed and capable agents in the UK. On the evidence in the case suggests the defendants were very much performing to the direction of others, not masterminding the scheme but taking a key part in a scheme masterminded by others, very probably in Columbia. None of the men had wealthy lifestyles but Valdes Jaramillo said he expected a very significant payment.”
May concluded, “The seizure was the culmination of a careful, committed police operation.”
[Image credit: Instructables.com]