Pair jailed for smuggling fake '£1million cannabis haul' into Plymouth
A HAPLESS man and his stepdaughter were caught smuggling what they thought was a £1m haul of cannabis - only to discover the drugs were worthless fakes.
David Cox, 63 and Sian Shakespeare, 44, were nabbed at Millbay docks by UK Border Agency officers as they drove their camper van off the Roscoff to Plymouth ferry.
Inside the heavily modified van officers found what they initially believed to be 422 kilos of cannabis resin with a street value of £1.1m. The 'drugs' were wrapped into 9oz bars and then packed tightly in 25 kilo bags.
Even though Cox admitted he thought he was smuggling cannabis into the country forensic examinations found the goods were not the class B drug .
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Cox admitted at Plymouth Crown Court in August last year that he had travelled to Holland and then brought back the goods via France to the UK.
Shakespeare denied the offence but was found guilty following a trial in July this year.
Yesterday the pair were jailed for a total of seven-and-a-half years for the smuggling fiasco.
Prosecutor Llewellyn Sellick said Cox told police he had become involved to pay off a drug debt owed by his son.
He was paid 3,000 Euros in advance and was to be given a further 22,000 Euros upon delivery.
Mr Sellick said Shakespeare's finger prints were found on bags and tapes around the fake cannabis while there was also a text message linking her to the drugs.
In mitigation, John McNally for Cox said his client had "serious long term health problems".
He noted how he had attempted to help his son who was being "pursued" for money and Cox was "put under pressure".
He said Cox was "appallingly foolish" to undertake the smuggling task on March 14 last year to pay off the debt.
Nicholas Ham, mitigating for Shakespeare, said she was trapped in a legal battle for her home following a messy divorce. He said she was also the sole carer for her 14-year-old daughter.
Judge Graham Cottle said Cox, of Long Street, Wheaton in Aston, played a "lead role" in the smuggling and was responsible for the vehicle while it was on the continent, adapting it so it was able to "cope with the merchandise of a weight in excess of 420kg."
He said that if the drugs had turned out to be cannabis he would have got seven years, but reduced it to five, minus 308 days already served.
Judge Cottle sentenced Shakespeare to two-and-a-half years for the smuggling.
Dawn Cartwright, of Border Force, said: "We are serious about tackling smuggling and the jail terms handed to Cox and Shakespeare should serve as a warning to others.
"Along with our law enforcement colleagues in the UK, we are working hard to prevent drugs, contraband, illegal immigrants or the proceeds of crime from crossing our border."
Shakespeare also pleaded guilty to a separate case heard at Stafford Crown Court of producing a controlled drug at her property in Ivetsey Bank, Wheaton in Staffordshire and of abstracting electricity.
She was given concurrent sentences of two years to add to the smuggling jail term.