A lorry driver who was caught transporting more than £3.3m worth of high purity cocaine from London to Scotland has been jailed for five years.
Robert Stewart, 54, also known as Robert Clifford, was seen stowing two cases into the HGV in Kensington before being arrested at Hamilton Services in Lanarkshire on May 28 last year. He had 65 kilograms of the Class A drug in the cab of the lorry.
A judge told him: “Drug trafficking wrecks lives and blights communities where drugs take hold. Drugs cause misery and deprivation in society.”
Lady Poole said at the High Court in Edinburgh: “You voluntarily involved yourself in the supply of drugs. You were not the directing mind of this operation, but you were an essential link in the chain of supply.”
She told the grandfather that he was involved in “a very significant operation” for the supply of a Class A drug. Lady Poole told Stewart that he would have faced a seven and a half year sentence for the crime, but for his early guilty plea.
The court heard that Stewart was to be paid £8000 for transporting the illicit goods before they were intercepted in Lanarkshire. It was claimed that he was “duped” over the transaction and believed he was sent to collect tobacco.
Advocate depute Richard Goddard QC said: “The purity of the cocaine was found to be between 74 and 80 per cent. This is described by police expert witnesses as ‘importation purity’.”
The haul was valued at £2.6m but because of its high purity could be bulked out with adulterants to produce more than 167 kilograms of the drug for street sale, with a potential value of £3.354m.
“At the age of 54 he looks now to the rear view mirror of his life and it is clear the events of May 27 and May 28 were precipitated by an error of judgement that has been catastrophic for Mr Stewart.”Defence solicitor advocate Shahid Latif
Stewart was alone in his vehicle when he was stopped and his DNA was found on the handles and zips of two suitcases containing the cocaine. He also left his fingerprints on one of the blocks of cocaine.
Mr Goddard said, on the evening of May 27 last year, police in London had two men under surveillance in the city’s Kensington area who were both wheeling cases.
They approached Stewart’s parked up lorry and passed up the heavily loaded cases to him. He put them behind a curtain in the rear of his cab and drove off to a service station in Buckinghamshire where he parked up for the night and slept in the vehicle while under surveillance.
Stewart continued his journey northwards the following morning and was seen to enter Hamilton services where police stopped the vehicle. The two suitcases containing the drugs were found on top of a fold down bed in the cab.
HGV driver Stewart, formerly of Thornhill Avenue, Elderslie, in Renfrewshire, earlier admitted being concerned in the supply of cocaine on May 27 and 28 last year.
The Crown has raised proceedings to claw back any crime profits from him.
Defence solicitor advocate Shahid Latif said: “At the age of 54 he looks now to the rear view mirror of his life and it is clear the events of May 27 and May 28 were precipitated by an error of judgement that has been catastrophic for Mr Stewart.”
“In my submission it is fair to say he was duped into committing this offence. His understanding was he had been sent to collect tobacco and possibly money,” he said.
“Drugs do great harm to communities across Scotland and with each case of this kind we can help reduce that harm.”Jennifer Harrower, procurator fiscal for specialist casework
Mr Latif said it was during the course of the journey at a motorway services that Stewart came to realise what was in the suitcases. He told the court: “He realises he made a mistake and for that mistake he now has to pay the price.”
On Wednesday, April 21, at the High Court in Edinburgh he was sentenced to five years in prison.
His arrest came during a major police operation across the UK which resulted in the takedown of an encrypted global communication service used almost exclusively by criminals – Encrochat.
It was the most significant ever UK-wide operation into serious and organised crime involving Police Scotland, the National Crime Agency and police forces across the country.
Jennifer Harrower, procurator fiscal for specialist casework, said: “Drugs do great harm to communities across Scotland and with each case of this kind we can help reduce that harm.
“It is thanks to intelligence that we were able to stop these drugs from reaching Scotland’s streets, and this kind of operation is invaluable to us as prosecutors working with our partners.”
Detective chief superintendent Stuart Houston, Police Scotland’s head of organised crime, said: “Keeping our communities safe and free from the nefarious activities of organised criminals remains an absolute priority for Police Scotland and I welcome the conviction and sentencing of Clifford.
“Officers work tirelessly to disrupt these activities and the intelligence-led operations, undertaken with our policing and law enforcement partners, led to some of the largest seizures of drugs made in Scotland. We continue to work closely with our UK and European law enforcement partners, underlining our determination to target those involved.”