British bricklayer brothers among five in court over £50m cocaine haul on jet


Two British bricklayers have appeared in court accused of being involved in a plot to smuggle cocaine worth more than £50 million into the UK on a private jet.

Brothers Stephen and Martin Neil were among five men accused of bringing half a tonne (500kg) of the class A drug into Britain on a flight from Colombia.

The discovery on Monday is believed to be one of the largest recent seizures of its kind.

The siblings stood side-by-side in the dock at Uxbridge Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, two days after the twin-engined aircraft landed at Farnborough Airport in Hampshire, having flown in from the South American country's capital, Bogota.

Stephen, 53, and Martin, 48, both from Bournemouth Road in Poole, Dorset, entered no pleas to a single charge of attempting to import cocaine.

Martin had short hair and a salt-and-pepper beard and was smartly dressed in a shirt and jacket.

The court heard he has been working on a residential project in the upmarket Sandbanks area of Poole.

Stephen, swarthy and balding and similarly dressed to his brother, is currently not working, the court heard.

The  men were arrested after drugs were found on a flight into England from Bogota, Colombia, the court heard (Border Force/PA)
The men were arrested after drugs were found on a flight into England from Bogota, Colombia, the court heard (Border Force/PA)

Three other men appeared at the court on Wednesday accused over the same alleged plot.

Italian national Alessandro Iembo, 28, of Richmond Hill, Bournemouth, and Spanish nationals Victor Franco-Lorenzo, 40, and 55-year-old Jose Ramon Miguelez-Botas are also charged with attempting to import the class A drug.

Bearded and bespectacled Iembo, who the court heard works as "kitchen staff", was also dressed in a shirt and jacket.

He spoke through an Italian interpreter to confirm his personal details. He indicated that he pleaded not guilty.

Short hearings for all five men. They've been remanded in custody to a hearing at Isleworth Crown Court. District Judge told the British brothers who were on the private jet were bricklayers by trade.

-- David Wilcock (@DavidWilcockPA) January 31, 2018

Grey-haired Franco-Lorenzo, also of Bournemouth, and bespectacled Miguelez-Botas, who gave an address in Spain, did the same via a Spanish interpreter.

The court heard that one Spaniard was a hairdresser and the other unemployed, but it was not told which was which.

All five men were remanded in custody by District Judge Deborah Wright to appear next at Isleworth Crown Court on March 1.