Man tried to smuggle £875,000 cocaine haul in bags of dog food

John Neilson was held after a raid at a garage in Bathgate, West Lothian, in June 2020.

Man tried to smuggle £875,000 cocaine haul in bags of dog food iStock

A man tried to help smuggle almost £900,000 worth of cocaine hidden in bags of dog food into Scotland.

John Neilson was held after a raid at a garage in Bathgate, West Lothian, in June 2020.

The 44-year-old was to collect the shipment, which had just arrived from the Netherlands.

Neilson – a £60,000-a-year off-shore scaffolder – has now been jailed for seven and a half years after he pled guilty to being concerned in the supply of cocaine.

The offence was aggravated by a connection to serious organised crime.

On Monday, his lawyer told the High Court in Glasgow  pressures of the pandemic had led to Neilson getting involved.

On June 18 last year, Neilson was put under surveillance during a probe into a crime gang.

The next day, police got a tip-off that bags of dog food containing “illegal substances” would be delivered to a garage in Bathgate.

On June 22, a single pallet holding a number of white bags was unloaded there.

Detectives swooped with Neilson and three other individuals being stopped.

Neilson’s hired Vauxhall Vivaro van was checked and 26 of what appeared to be bags of dog food were discovered in the back.

Prosecutor Margaret Barron said: “During the search of the 26 bags, a total of 15 of them were found to contain blocks wrapped in black tape.

“Each weighed approximately 1kg. All 15 were found to contain white powder, later identified as cocaine.”

Neilson’s home in nearby Whitburn was also searched.

A total of seven open dog food bags – identical to those at the garage – were found along with £600 in cash.

Neilson later told police he had hired the van on the day of the raids as he had been asked to collect “something”.

He was unaware what it was, claiming it was “better off not knowing”.

The drugs found had a purity of up to 65%.

Ms Barron said the haul had a potential value of £875,000.

It was found the bags had originally been delivered from Venlo in Holland.

The court was told telephone records also showed Neilson had been in contact with another individual earlier on June 12 about a delivery of 20kg of cocaine.

Ms Barron said: “A message sent by Neilson [that day] stated ‘the eagle has landed’, indicating that the consignment had arrived.”

The court heard there was “support” to the “inference” that Neilson had previously received a consignment of drugs.

Drew McKenzie, defending, said Neilson had not been able to return to work off-shore last year as a result of the lockdown before getting involved in crime.

The lawyer added: “He did not know where he was to take the packages.”

Lord Sandison reduced the jail-term from ten years due to the guilty plea.

The judge said: “You have stated that when interviewed by police you were acting on instructions.

“However, you were well aware that potentially you may be transporting illegal drugs.

“It is clear you were performing more than a minor role.”

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