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cocaine trucker Derry-born man who was part of 'unsophisticated' gang of drug smugglers jailed

Joseph Gray, who was driving the lorry, was "clearly anxious" when stopped by Border Force officers

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Joseph Gray (far right) is pictured with Moynul Hoque and Usman Iqbal

Joseph Gray (far right) is pictured with Moynul Hoque and Usman Iqbal

Joseph Gray (far right) is pictured with Moynul Hoque and Usman Iqbal

An “unsophisticated” gang of drug smugglers, including a Derry-born man who got in “over their heads” when they tried to smuggle £5.5m worth of cocaine in a yoghurt and orange juice shipment, have been jailed in the UK. 

Joseph Gray, of Draperstown in Northern Ireland, had brought the multi-million pound shipment of hard drugs through a North Wales port on a lorry “destined for Tesco”, when he was stopped by Border Force officers.

The 53-year-old was joined in the dock by his co-conspirators Usman Iqbal, of Bradleigh Avenue in Essex, and Moynul Hoque, of Lockwood House in London who all faced a charge of being concerned in the evasion of prohibition/restriction on import.

Prosecutor Simon Mills told Judge Nicola Saffman at Caernarfon Crown Court the trio, who were part of a wider conspiracy to supply cocaine on UK streets, were caught at the port of Holyhead, on Anglesey, at around 7.30am on October 9, 2020.

He said that Gray, who was driving the lorry which was carrying a variety of food items, including yoghurt and orange juice on pallets that was "destined for Tesco", was "clearly anxious" when stopped by Border Force officers.

This anxiety seemed to get the better of him, Mr Mills said, when he told officers that there were things on board he "didn't put there".

Gray was arrested after four boxes on board the lorry were found to contain 69 individual packages of high purity cocaine, each weighing about a kilo. The total street value was given to the court as about £5.5m.

It was said that the drugs had been picked up a day earlier from Hoque (32) and Iqbal (36).

Handovers took place in the Bristol area, Mr Mills said and both Hoque and Iqbal were arrested months later in December in France.

Initially, when questioned, the court heard that Gray thought he was transporting tobacco. He also denied knowing the two other men involved in the conspiracy.

Simon Mintz, in defending Gray said he had been living “a relatively quiet life" at the time of the crime and was working back in Northern Ireland on his family farm that was struggling in the wake of Covid-19.

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The court heard how he had supplemented his income through lorry driving.

The court was told that Gray, who has been on remand in North Wales since his arrest 18 months ago, was "glad" none of the drugs made it onto the streets, as he had reflected on the damage these substances cause.

Jonathan Page, in defending Hoque, said that there is "no evidence" to suggest his client was "benefiting greatly" from being involved in this conspiracy.

The court also heard how Hoque had no criminal history to his name, making his involvement "entirely out of character".

Defending Iqbal, Archangelo Power, said his client showed "a great deal of remorse" after being "drawn into" this act. He added that the dad-of-four lost his job during the pandemic but has since taken similar steps to the other men in order to better himself for his eventual release from prison.

Judge Nicola Saffman told the men were "clearly unsophisticated" in their operation, adding that there were "clearly" people higher up in the chain they were working under.

She sentencing each of the men to five years and seven months behind bars.

“You each performed a limited function, under direction,” she told them.

“You had no influence on those above you in the chain and you had no clue of the magnitude of the operation.

"I've given you the maximum credit available as, quite frankly, I think you were so in over your heads here and you were entirely out of your depths.”

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