Drugs smugglers jailed after plotting to ship £5m of cocaine to UK disguised as Boots Botox cream

Corrupt baggage handlers at Gatwick Airport were used to smuggle cocaine into the UK (PA Archive)
Corrupt baggage handlers at Gatwick Airport were used to smuggle cocaine into the UK (PA Archive)

Two drugs smugglers behind a £5 million plot to ship cocaine into the UK disguised as soup and Botox cream have been jailed for a total of46 years.

Tyrone Gordon, 40, orchestrated a conspiracy to ship class A drugs into the country on Air Europa flights into Gatwick Airport.

Gordon used his contacts in Brazil to set up the shipments, while second-in-command Ryan Steadman, 39, organised for corrupt baggage handlers to receive the suitcases of drugs.

When the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted their illicit operation, they discussed using DHL shipments to continue smuggling cocaine and heroin into the UK.

Encrochat messages recovered by law enforcement reveal they considered disguising the drugs as Botox cream destined for branches of Boots, or hidden among electronic devices heading to TK Maxx.

At Woolwich crown court on Monday, Gordon was jailed for 26 years while Steadman was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

“Class A drugs destroy lives and not just the lives of the people that use them and deal in them”, said Judge Christopher Grout.

“The families of those people suffer as well. So too does the wider community that has to live with the side effects of drug misuse which includes related criminality - such as robbery and theft - which addicted users of such drugs often commit in order to fund their habits.

“You are responsible for contributing to this misery in a major way.”

The court heard two suitcases suspected of containing drugs were successfully shipped into Gatwick and “spirited away” by a baggage handler on two dates in February 2020.

“The two of you, along with others known and unknown, participated in an enterprise to import cocaine from Brazil aboard Air Europa flights which were bound for London Gatwick Airport via Madrid”, set out the judge.

“Suitcases loaded with cocaine would be checked in at Sao Paulo Airport, but the passengers would not ultimately seek to collect their luggage once they arrived at London Gatwick.

“Rather, once the aircraft had landed, corrupt baggage handlers working at London Gatwick would seek to identify and offload the luggage, removing it from the airport using company vehicles in order to avoid it being checked by airport security or customs officials.

“The plan was audacious but successful, albeit not as successful as you would have liked.”

On a third flight in January 2021, the suitcase believed to contain drugs could not be found when the plane landed at Gatwick.

And in November 2021, a shipment was intercepted in Spain with the mule, and found to contain cans of cocaine disguised as soup.

The judge said 52 kilos of drugs had been imported, or attempted to be imported, and would have a street value of up to £5 million.

Messages on the Encrochat system referred to shipments of “dirty” – understood to be heroin.

Gordon, a father of three from Crawley, and Ryan Steadman, a father of five from Lewisham, were found guilty at trial of conspiracy to import cocaine andconspiracy to import heroin, Gordon was also found guilty of possession with intent to supply cocaine and offering to supply cocaine.

A third defendant, Jack Williams, 33, from Manchester, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine. He is due to be sentenced at a later date.