11 May 2023

Huge haul of cocaine worth £200m hidden in bananas, court told

11 May 2023

Cocaine worth £200 million was seized by authorities after being smuggled into the UK in banana boxes, a court has heard.

Border officials at Portsmouth uncovered four pallets containing 2,330 blocks of the Class A drug weighing 2.3 tonnes amid a consignment of 41 pallets of bananas from Colombia, jurors were told

Four days later, two police officers posing as lorry drivers delivered the boxes to a warehouse in north London.

Beforehand, the covert officers removed the cocaine from the affected pallets and substituted it for more bananas.

Jurors were told the cocaine had a street value of £186 million, rising to £200 million when mixed with other substances, at the time making it the largest inland seizure ever by UK officers.

Prosecutors allege the man in charge of taking the delivery on the morning of February 18 2021 was Petko Zhutev, 38, who is on trial at the Old Bailey.

Around two hours after the delivery, officers entered the warehouse and arrested Zhutev and two other men, the court heard.

Jurors were told that numbered pallets in which the drugs were transported had been identified and moved to a first floor where the process of searching them had started.

A revolver containing six live cartridge was also recovered from a ceiling girder above the boxes, the court was told.

Prosecutor Tyrone Silcott told jurors: “There is no dispute between the parties that this vast amount of cocaine was intended for delivery to the unit, nor is there any doubt the firearm and ammunition was inside the unit.

“You will be asked to consider whether you are sure the defendant Mr Zhutev was concerned in the importation of the drugs, or, as the defence may argue, was or may have been just an innocent person going about his lawful work of importing food.”

Zhutev, of no fixed address, denies charges with the importation of a Class A drug and of being in possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

The Old Bailey trial continues.

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