Canadian smuggler caught with £300,000 of drugs at Scots airport

Pawlo Albanskyj told Border Agency officials he was planning to travel a further 500 miles to visit his sister in Slough.

Canadian drugs smuggler caught at Aberdeen airport with £300,000 of cannabis iStock

A drugs smuggler was caught after telling Aberdeen Airport officials that he jetted in from Amsterdam to visit his sister in the south of England, a court heard.

Pawlo Albanskyj was detained after telling UK Border Agency officials that he was planning to travel a further 500 miles to visit his sister in Slough. 

The High Court in Edinburgh heard on Wednesday that staff asked the Canadian to open his two suitcases. 

Staff found he was carrying cannabis worth just under £300,000 in his baggage. 

Prosecutor Steven Borthwick KC told judge Lady Haldane: “The accused confirmed that he had packed both suitcases himself, that he was fully aware of the contents and that he was not carrying anything for anybody else. 

“The accused also confirmed that he was aware that it was illegal to import controlled drugs, firearms and indecent or obscene materials into the UK. 

“The padlocks were cut from both suitcases by Border Force officers and the suitcases were opened and searched. 

“The cases were found to contain two t-shirts and a large quantity of herbal material, packed into individual bags. 

“When asked what the herbal material was, the accused said marijuana. The accused was then arrested.”

The story emerged after 29-year-old Albanskyj, of Mississauga, Ontario, pleaded guilty to being involved in the supply of cannabis on December 11, 2022 at Aberdeen Airport. 

On Wednesday, Mr Borthwick told the court that Albanskyj landed in Aberdeen on a flight from the Dutch city just after 10am. He was stopped and questioned by Border Force officials who wanted to know why he had come to the UK. 

Mr Borthwick said: “When asked what was in the suitcases, the accused said it was clothes belonging to himself and his sister. 

“When informed that his luggage was to be searched, the accused said that the padlocks on the case belonged to his sister and that he did not know the code to open them.

“He claimed to send a text message to his sister for the codes but said he did not receive a reply.

“The bags of herbal material were later examined. It was tested and found to be cannabis. 

“The Police Scotland STOP Unit have advised that the cannabis has the potential to realise £295,000.”

Mr Borthwick told the court that police officers seized Albanskyj’s mobile phone and discovered that he had been using an encrypted messaging app called Threema. 

The advocate depute said that officers who looked at the accused’s phone found out that he was going to be paid 8,000 Canadian Dollars (£4,937) for making the trip to Scotland. 

Mr Borthwick added: “Examination of the messages disclosed that the accused had been using the application to communicate that day with an unknown individual who was clearly the organiser of the importation. 

“The messages show regular contact between the accused and the organiser, involving instructions for travel, logistics and some discussion regarding payment. 

“it is accepted that the accused was acting in the role of courier in return for payment.”

Mr Borthwick told the court that Albanskyj, who observed proceedings via video link from prison, had no previous convictions in the UK. 

The National Crime Agency had contacted law enforcement agencies in Canada and found that he had also no history of offending in his homeland. 

Lady Haldane remanded Albanskyj in prison and deferred sentence for the court to obtain reports. 

She added: “You were apprehended at Aberdeen Airport where you were found to have cannabis in your bags which was found to have cannabis with a value of just under £300,000. 

“Given the value of the drugs, a custodial sentence is likely in this case. However, you have no previous convictions and you have never served a period of imprisonment so I will therefore adjourn sentence to obtain a criminal justice social work report on your background. 

“You will continue to be remanded in custody.”

Albanskyj will be sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh on April 5, 2023. 

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