Two members of a drug smuggling gang who used a helicopter to fly millions of pounds of cocaine into Britain were handed lengthy prison sentences on Monday.The helicopter had hidden trap doors under the seats to stash the drugs, said the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), England's state prosecutors.
The gang smuggled £7 million ($9.8 million, eight million euros) of cocaine into the UK from continental Europe.
It was estimated that Belgian ringleader Frederic Fagnoul, 50, was importing 50 kilogrammes of cocaine on each flight.
He rented a helicopter and pilot to bring the drugs into Britain.
The cocaine would then be unpacked and distributed by car in hidden compartments to be sold nationwide.
On September 12 last year, he flew from Calais on the northeast French coast over the Channel to a hotel in Kent, southeast England. He used the cover story that he had been night fishing.
Police surveillance showed him carrying heavy bags from the helicopter to a hotel room.
He was arrested after being spotted passing on the drugs to others.
At Southwark Crown Court in London, Fagnoul admitted conspiring to importing and supplying drugs. He was sentenced to 17 years and six months in jail.
John Bolter, 36, from south London, was arrested on September 6 driving a car with 20 kg of cocaine hidden inside.
He admitted one count of conspiracy to supply cocaine and was sentenced Monday to seven years and six months' imprisonment.
Dean Francis, 37, from southeast London, admitted the same offence. He was observed meeting Fagnoul at a hotel in Kent and collecting drugs on September 5.
He will be sentenced on Thursday.
"This was a sophisticated large-scale operation to supply large amounts of cocaine from the continent into the UK," said William Russell of the CPS.