Frederic Fagnoul, 50, has been jailed for more than 17 years for his part in the drugs racket
A drug kingpin who transported millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the UK via luxury hotels has been jailed for more than 17 years.
Frederic Fagnoul, 50, modified a helicopter with a secret compartment to stash large quantities of the narcotic which was then flown into the UK from the continent.
Fagnoul and his accomplice John Bolter were behind the four-month long ‘sophisticated conspiracy’ which saw some £7 million worth of cocaine flown in to the helipads of hotels.
When buttons were pressed on the helicopter’s fobs, trap doors beneath the four seats would open via a spring lock mechanism to reveal cavities underneath, which were welded in place to create hides.
The narcotics were then transported from the helipads to dealers in London, Liverpool and Birmingham.
Bolter, 36, transported kilos in a Nissan Qashqai with a secret compartment, Southwark Crown Court heard.
Fagnoul modified this helicopter with a secret compartment to stash large quantities of the narcotic which was then flown into the UK from the continent
The narcotics (pictured) were transported from the helipads to dealers in London, Liverpool and Birmingham
Belgian helicopter pilot Marc Charlier, 53, was cleared of involvement by a jury after insisting he had no knowledge of the illicit cargo beneath him.
Andrew Gray, 52, Steven Mulroe, 40, and Graham Johnson, 59, were also cleared of conspiracy to supply cocaine by a jury.
John Bolter, 36, transported cocaine in a Nissan Qashqai with a secret compartment
Prosecutor James Brown told the court how Charlier first flew Fagnoul, who was posing as a wealthy businessman, from Flanders International Airport in Belgium to Lydd Airport in Kent, last June.
They flew to the Eastwell Manor Hotel via Ashford and stayed overnight at the Acorn Cottage before returning to Flanders the next day.
Charlier then took out a long-term lease on another helicopter for trips to the UK in July, August and September, the court heard.
In early September, the helicopter landed at the helipad at the Eastwell Manor Hotel.
Bolter was later stopped by police as he transported drugs in the Nissan.
Mr Brown said: ‘He told police he was driving the car for a friend who was in hospital after having had a heart attack.’
The police searched the car and were able to prize open the trapdoor in the boot enough to wrench out a block of cocaine.
Bolter was arrested and told officers he had been paid to drive the car from A to B, but was unaware of the car’s contents.
At Bromley Police Station, the Nissan’s boot compartment was breached with a crow bar and officers found 20 identical packages.
Each contained 1kg of cocaine of extremely high purity, in the range of 78%-99%.
The Nissan’s boot floor panel had been hand-fabricated from sheet metal, with a hinge attached, housing a void underneath. When a button on the vehicle’s fobs were pressed motor actuator pins would open, unlocking thecompartment
The Nissan’s boot compartment was breached with a crow bar and officers found 20 identical packages. Each contained 1kg of cocaine of extremely high purity, in the range of 78%-99%
Charlier and Fagnoul, meanwhile, were staying at the Chilston Park Hotel in Maidstone.
After leaving the hotel with a holdall, Johnson was thn stopped by police at Maidstone Services on the M20 and asked what was in vehicle replied, ‘I don’t know.’
Police uncovered 40 packages, each containing a kilo of high-purity cocaine.
Charlier was apprehended as he was asking the concierge for a taxi to Ashford while Fagnoul enjoyed a beer at the bar.
Dean Francis was arrested in October 2017 after he was observed meeting Fagnoul at a hotel in Kent
Fagnoul was caught with a key fob to the helicopter, encrypted phones and plastic gloves in his luxury suite.
Fagnoul told the judge that he was forced into the cocaine importation by a debt of 300,000 euros he owed to thugs.
In 2016, Belgian judges handed Fagnoul a three year suspended sentence for embezzlement after he was dismissed as a financial director.
Fagnoul told the judge he had received death threats from former investors in his life insurance fund and still owed around 1.5m Euros.
The divorced father-of-one said: ‘If I had to bring 500 kilograms of cocaine to protect my family – I would do it.’
Fagnoul, of no fixed address, admitted conspiracy to import cocaine and was jailed for 17 and a half years.
Bolter, of no fixed address, admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine and was jailed for seven and a half years.
Dean Francis was arrested on 4 October 2017 after he was observed meeting Fagnoul at a hotel in Kent and collecting drugs on 5 September.
The 37-year-old from Lewisham in south London, was charged with conspiracy to supply class A drugs and pleaded guilty in March. He will be sentenced on 26 April.
Charlier, Gray and Johnson, all of no fixed address, along with Mulroe, from Dulwich, all denied and were cleared of conspiracy to import cocaine.