Traffickers load huge amount of high-strength cannabis on to truck near Derby
A pair of drug couriers loaded half a million pounds of high-strength cannabis into the back of a lorry on the A50 near Derby. A court heard how corrupt Louis McPhillips met fellow dealer Ben Kelly on the M1 near Chesterfield before travelling in convoy to the A50. Once there they loaded six large boxes of “skunk weed” into the back of lorry driver McPhillips’ HGV which was destined for Northern Ireland.
But Border Force officials stopped the 27-year-old as he was about to drive on to a ferry and found 50kg of the class B drug – worth an estimated half a million pounds – and arrested him. National Crime Agency senior investigator, Jon Sayers, said: “Through painstaking analysis of CCTV and mobile phone data we were able to link these two men to a conspiracy to smuggle drugs worth half a million pounds out of the UK and into Ireland.
“Organised crime groups rely on corrupt truck drivers such as McPhillips to move their contraband across borders.
The criminals’ rendezvous at Chesterfield
“They play an important role in criminal infrastructures.
“Working with law enforcement partners such as Border Force we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle criminal networks involved in drug trafficking.” The criminal conspiracy was uncovered after National Crime Agency officers tracked down CCTV of the pair arranging a drugs handover.
McPhillips, 27, from Rosemount Park, Armagh, was stopped as he was about to board a ferry at Holyhead port to the Republic of Ireland in the early hours of 24 January 2019.
At the time he worked for a Northern Irish logistics firm and was found to be carrying several large cardboard boxes full of skunk amongst the load in his trailer.
The giant drugs haul
The 50 kilos of cannabis would have been worth around half a million pounds at street value.
Through checking CCTV, ANPR records and mobile phone data NCA investigators were able to piece together his movements before the seizure.
He had been in text message contact with Kelly, 26, from Southall, London, the day before, arranging to meet him just off the M1 near Chesterfield, where McPhillips was due to pick up his legitimate load of cleaning products.
Kelly had travelled up from London with the cannabis in his van and CCTV captured their meeting.
The two travelled from Chesterfield in convoy to the A50 near Derby where the drugs were loaded on to the truck.
Shortly after the handover McPhillips texted an unidentified number saying “6 big ones this time, lot of stuff”.
Kelly was arrested by the NCA on July 18, 2019 in Greenford, after investigators linked him to the 24 January seizure.
The two men pleaded guilty to conspiring to export class B drugs, and today at Southwark Crown Court McPhillips was given a 22-month jail sentence, suspended for two years.
Kelly got 20 months, also suspended for two years.