Five alleged cocaine smugglers accused of carrying £50million of cocaine into the UK on a private jet previously travelled to Colombia claimed they had been there to meet pop star Bruno Mars, a court heard today.
The gang allegedly flew South America and paid a private jet firm £128,500 in cash claiming that they had made their fortune in cryptocurrency and were involved in the music business.
But Woolwich Crown Court heard seeing Bruno Mars perform and meeting him afterwards was a front for an international drug smuggling ring carrying tonnes of cocaine into Britain.
Subsequent checks revealed the singer had been in the South American country at that time – but there is no suggestion he was involved in any cocaine plot or any evidence they were at his gig or met him.
Brothers Stephen Neil, 53, and Martin Neil, 49, both from Poole, Dorset, are in the dock with one Italian and two Spaniards.
Brothers Stephen Neil, 53, and Martin Neil, 49, both from Poole, Dorset, are in the dock with one Italian and two Spaniards over an alleged £50million cocaine plot
The siblings deny one count of fraudulent evasion of a prohibition in relation to a class A controlled drug, between October 30, 2017 and January 30, 2018.
The gang is accused of using a Bruno Mars gig as cover for a flight to and from Colombia
They are on trial alongside Italian national Alessandro Iembo, 28, of Bournemouth, and Spanish nationals Victor Franco-Lorenzo, 40, and 56-year-old Jose Ramon Miguelez-Botas, who are also charged with the same offence.
Jurors heard Iembo, Martin Neil and Franco-Lorenzo had made an initial three day trip to Bogota leaving on December 8, last year.
When booking the private jet for that trip, the woman who paid the man who ran Diamonte Jets – a chartered jet service provider – gave him £128,500 in cash for three passengers.
Ms Maylin said: ‘She said they were leaders in the field of cryptocurrency, they were involved in the music industry and that her clients would be meeting Bruno Mars in Colombia.’
Subsequent checks revealed the singer had been in the South American country at that time.
As part of the booking, it was also asked that a luxury chauffeur driven Rolls-Royce Phantom car collect the men upon their return to Farnborough.
It was to take them to an address in Bromley, south east London.
Jurors heard when the three men returned to the UK on December 11, they landed with a number of suitcases but it cannot be said for certain what was in the luggage as they were not stopped.
The court heard that even with the associated costs of the importation, the profit from the racket was set to be in excess of £50million.
Opening the case prosecutor Kerry Maylin told jurors: ‘That’s what this case is about. A huge importation of 513 blocks weighing about a kilo each of cocaine.’
The court heard the men travelled together in the private jet, at a cost of £138,500, from London Luton airport on January 26 this year.
Three days later theu arrived at Farnborough Airport in Hampshire, having allegedly flown in from Colombia’s capital, Bogota.
They had with them 15 suitcases which were opened by Border Force officials at Farnborough.
Ms Maylin said: ‘As they were opened individually, on the top some of them had some dirty children’s clothes, some had some female clothes – not very many because in the main body of those suitcases were wrapped blocks of cocaine hydrochloride, each individually wrapped in about 1kg weights.’
Jurors were told that when analysed, the cocaine was found to have a purity of 79%, and the average weight of each block was 997 grams – around 500kg in total.
‘The value, wholesale, was £15,390,000, but on the street, you can imagine, much much more,’ said Ms Maylin.
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