Saturday 21 October 2017

Drug trafficker who customised Bentley to transport €4m worth of cocaine jailed for 24 years

Undated National Crime Agency handout photo of a Bentley with a secret roof space used by Florentino Gonzalez to smuggle millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the UK Photo: NCA/PA Wire
Undated National Crime Agency handout photo of a Bentley with a secret roof space used by Florentino Gonzalez to smuggle millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the UK Photo: NCA/PA Wire

Rachael Burnett

A drug trafficker who used a Bentley with a secret roof space to smuggle millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the UK has been jailed for 24 years.

Florentino Gonzalez made dozens of journeys to London from his home in Belgium in his luxury car, which had been customised to hold 60kg of drugs in a hidden compartment.

The 48-year-old was seen by police surveillance officers carrying out deals in south-east London in August and September last year.

He was arrested after a run bringing 30kg of cocaine, with a street value of around £3.6 million (€4.2 million) , into the capital.

Gonzalez, a Belgian national living in Brussels, was jailed for a total of 24 years at Blackfriars Crown Court on Friday for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs in 2015 and 2016.

Judge Christopher Sallon described the operation as a "highly sophisticated" plot smuggling commercial quantities of cocaine into the UK.

"Huge consignments of this drug, which originated in South America, were smuggled into France or Belgium and finally on into the UK through the Eurotunnel, having been professionally concealed in luxury cars," he added.

He continued: "The evils of this trade are well documented. The supply of a very addictive drug is a scourge which threatens and undermines the safety of communities, increases crime and endangers the lives of all those people to whom it is supplied, particularly the young and vulnerable."

Police caught Gonzalez swapping the powder for bundles of cash in an underground car park beneath a set of luxury flats in Southwark.

When a specialist Border Force team searched his car they found around £250,000 in bundles stashed in the purpose-built roof.

Five of his co-conspirators were also jailed for their roles in the plot.

Belgian national Armand Cuni, 39, and Edwin Abazi, 31, of Hillingdon, west London, were sentenced to 22 and 21 years respectively.

Saimir Byberi, 30, of Bedford, was sentenced to 15 years, Yelton Cera, 26, an illegal Albanian immigrant, for 12 years and Bajram Elezi, 34, of Epsom in Surrey, for eight years for their part in the conspiracy.

Press Association

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