Encrochat prosecutions - Drugs trafficking - UK

News Desk

Cocaine imported from Brazil didn't go through security or customs because baggage handlers at Sao Paulo and London's Gatwick airports conspired with the traffickers to avoid all checks.

The defendants "participated in an enterprise to import cocaine from Brazil aboard Air Europa flights which were bound for London Gatwick Airport via Madrid. 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."

Jack Williams was the link to the corrupt baggage handlers at London Gatwick and had attributed to him 35 mobile telephone numbers throughout the relevant period.

The Judge said "Christopher and Nicholas Darby, two brothers, worked as baggage handlers at London Gatwick, along with Hugo Baltasar. Mr Baltasar has not been arrested in relation to this matter as it is believed that he is currently in Portugal. Christoper and Nicholas Darby were arrested and did stand trial along with the two of you but were found not guilty. Having listened to the evidence at trial, I have no doubt at all, for reasons I shall touch upon in due course, that they were involved in this offending, but it is not inconceivable that they were not parties to the specific agreement to import cocaine. It is entirely possible, for example, that they were instructed by Jack Williams to identify and retrieve the relevant bags from the aircraft without being told what, precisely, was in them. Not guilty verdicts in their respective cases is consistent with that position."

He went on " Tyrone Gordon, were at the top of the tree of the conspiracy, with contacts in South America who would ensure that the drugs were loaded aboard the various flights. You then, it was said, had overall control of what would happen to the drugs once they arrived in the UK. During the relevant period, you controlled an Encrochat device so that you could communicate with Ryan Steadman and others about drug importation and supply. You used multiple mobile telephones throughout the period- 18 in total- in order to conduct your business and, along with the use of the Encrochat device, help to reduce the risk of being caught by the police."

And "Ryan Steadman, as the number two. You did not, it would appear, have overseas connections but you did have contact with two people in particular who were instrumental in the success of the conspiracies, namely Jack Williams who sourced the corrupt baggage handlers at London Gatwick, and Gairy Thompson who, himself a Class A drugs importer, had access to a corrupt insider or insiders working for DHL, the courier company, which proved to be an alternative means of importing drugs into the country and to which I shall return in due course. You too communicated through the use of an Encrochat device as well as 22 mobile telephones in total throughout the relevant period for much the same reason as Tyrone Gordon."

What tipped off the authorities? A passenger checked in a bag but left the airport carrying hand-luggage only. extensive surveillance followed.

There were convictions for other offences.

Tyrone Gordon: 26 years (four sentences to run concurrently).

Steadman: 20 years (2 sentences to run concurrently)

Further reading: https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2024/06/Gordon-and-Others-S…