BUSTED: An illegal immigrant on their lorry caused the drugs haul to be found
INTERNATIONAL drug smugglers were caught after border officials spotted an illegal immigrant who had stowed away on their truck.
Antonius Hendriks, 50, and Rene Neuteboom, 35, both from Holland, were stopped at the Channel Tunnel in Folkestone, Kent, on 31 August last year, when UK Border Agency staff became suspicious about their vehicle.
A National Crime Agency 9NCA) spokesman said: "Officials’ attention first turned to the vehicle because an illegal immigrant had hidden in an external locker on the truck unknown to Hendriks and Neuteboom."
However, further searches showed the pair were trying to smuggle cocaine and cannabis into the UK that was hidden in the roof.
Hendriks was using the cover of being a stock car racer in a bid to smuggle drugs with a street value of £2.6m into the UK.
He had never raced at all in the UK in 2017, but told officials he and his assistant Neuteboom were en route to a competition in King’s Lynn, Norfolk.
SMUGGLER: Antonius Hendriks
Inside the specially adapted truck they used to transport Hendriks’s race car were 40kgs of cocaine and 280kgs of cannabis hidden inside.
When Border Force officers scanned the vehicle after finding the migrant, they discovered 60 holdalls containing the class A and class B drugs in concealed roof compartments.
When asked what it was, Neuteboom, who owned and drove the truck, said: “It’s weed.”
The Dutchmen were arrested and Neuteboom declined to answer questions except one, which was: “Were you fully aware of what you were doing today?” He answered “yes”.
NCA investigators proved the men had travelled to the UK at least 20 times and that Hendriks had not raced in the UK since 2016.
Hendriks, a self-employed car dealer, and Neuteboom both admitted importing class A and class B drugs at Canterbury Crown Court.
JAILED: Rene Neuteboom
Hendriks and Neuteboom were today sentenced to 10 years 10 months and nine years respectively.
NCA branch commander Matt Rivers said: “Couriers like Hendriks and Neuteboom provide a vital service to the organised criminal networks involved in drug trafficking.
“These convictions are testament to the hard work of the NCA and our partners at Border Force.
SCAM: Hendriks posed as a stock car racer to smuggle in drugs
“We have jointly taken out a sizeable consignment of drugs that would have funded further serious and organised crime in the UK and beyond if the vehicle had not been stopped and scanned.”
Paul Morgan, Director of Border Force South East and Europe, said: “This is another excellent example of Border Force officers preventing a substantial quantity of drugs, with an estimated street level value of around £2.6 million, from ending up on the streets of the UK, where they cause significant harm to both individuals and communities.
“Working with our colleagues at the NCA we are determined to do all we can to stop drug traffickers. Those convicted of drug importation offences face considerable prison sentences.”