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Over 25 Americans arrested at UK airports this year for attempted drug smuggling

Eight of those arrested have been convicted and handed jail sentences.

Massa Momolu Talery and Gerald Jean-Leger. Photo: National Crime Agency

Neasa CumiskeySunday World

More than 25 US nationals have been arrested at UK airports for attempting to smuggle cannabis into the country since the start of 2023, the National Crime Agency (NCA) has said.

Eight of these have been convicted and handed jail sentences, many of whom attempted to bring the drug, which is legal in many US states, over to the UK by packing it into suitcases.

NCA Heathrow Branch Commander Andy Noyes said that many of the attempts are “largely unsophisticated”, with offenders getting caught due to their poor skills at concealing the substances.

“The prison sentences handed out are the consequence of foolish decisions made by people who either think, or have been told, that they will get away with smuggling drugs into the UK,” he explained.

“These attempts were largely unsophisticated, with commercial amounts of cannabis carried unconcealed within large suitcases”.

However, other criminals enlist in the help of couriers by bribing them with lavish getaways or cash rewards to do their bidding.

“Organised crime gangs need couriers… to bring their illicit substances into the UK,” Noyes said.

“Couriers are often recruited with promises of payment or free holidays.

“But in reality, these attempts just end in jail sentences. I’d urge anyone considering smuggling cannabis into the UK, whether from the US or elsewhere, to think twice. It isn’t worth the risk.

“The NCA and our partners in Border Force are targeting drugs smugglers and will do all we can to disrupt the gangs involved.”

It comes after two American men were jailed last week after admitting to the importation of class B drugs at Isleworth Crown Court.

NCA officers opened an investigation into Pennsylvania-born construction worker Massa Momolu Talery, (32) after he was stopped at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 3 on February 4.

He initially told border officers he was in the country for a two-week holiday, but packages containing 20kg of herbal cannabis with an estimated street value of £400,000 (more than €453,400) were found in his bags following searches.

Mr Talery later told NCA investigators that he attempted to smuggle the drugs into the country to pay off debts.

He was given an eight-month sentence by a judge at Isleworth Crown Court on Thursday 9 March.

The following day, Friday 10 March, a judge at the same court gave 26-year-old Massachusetts man Gerard Jean-Leger a ten-month sentence for the same offence.

He was caught on January 19 as he attempted to smuggle 27kg of cannabis into the UK on a flight from Los Angeles.

These drugs had also been packed into suitcases that were checked in for the flight.

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