Ringleader of £7 million helicopter drug gang jailed for more than 17 years

A ringleader of a gang who smuggled £7 million worth of cocaine into the UK stashed under the seats of a helicopter has been jailed for more than 17 years.

Frederic Fagnoul, 50, from  Fennieres, Belgium, was part of an operation where around 50kg of the class A drug would be stuffed into a secret compartment in the aircraft and flown from Calais, France to Kent.

He rented a helicopter and pilot to take him to Lydd airport and from there to hotels with helipads, where the stash would be passed on to other gang members who would drive the haul to dealers across the UK.

Drug dealing gang jailed
Belgian national Frederic Fagnoul, 50, who has been sentenced to 17 years and six months at Southwark Crown Court for his part in a drug-dealing gang (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Staff at the plush Eastwell Manor Hotel and Spa in Ashford and Chilston Park Hotel in Maidstone had no knowledge of what was happening, and Fagnoul used the cover story that he had been night fishing.

The Belgian national was jailed for 17 and a half years at Southwark Crown Court on Monday, having previously admitted conspiracy to import class A drugs and conspiracy to supply class A drugs, Scotland Yard said.

Drug dealing gang jailed
The secret compartment located under the seats in the main body of the helicopter seized in September 2017 (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Investigators from Scotland Yard and the National Crime Agency busted the drugs ring in September 2017.

Officers in Bromley, south east London stopped stopped a Nissan Qashqai driven by Fagnoul's associate John Bolter and found 20kg of cocaine stashed in a secret compartment, as well as an encrypted mobile phone.

They later seized the helicopter and arrested Fagnoul.

Drug dealers who supplied £7 million of cocaine via helicopter jailed for 25 years https://t.co/AC9vCAPqDUpic.twitter.com/4cyOh0sBlQ

-- Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) April 23, 2018

Bolter, 36, of Effort Street, Tooting, was jailed for seven and a half years for possession with intent to supply cocaine, and conspiracy to supply class A drugs, which he had previously admitted.

A third man, Dean Francis, 37, of Knighton Park Road, Lewisham, south east London, was also seen collecting drugs from Fagnoul and admitted conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

He is due to be sentenced on Thursday.

Detective Chief Superintendent Mick Gallagher said: "Detailed detective work identified the significant roles these defendants played in the supply of millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the UK."

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