Three members of a crime group which used a religious organisation as a front for importing 400 kilos of cannabis have been sentenced.
A National Crime Agency investigation found that Dalton Anderson, 51, Alvin Russell, 46, and Sinclair Tucker, 65, had used Birmingham-based Vision Christian Ministries (VCM) to conceal the smuggling of the drugs – which were worth up to £2 million if sold in the UK.
The cannabis was trafficked from Jamaica to the UK, via Birmingham Airport, and had been packed into sealed tins of Calaloo and Ackee fruit. It was shipped in three separate consignments addressed to VCM between March and May 2017, which were all seized by Border Force.
The trio were arrested at the airport on 23 May of that year, while inspecting the third consignment which had just arrived.
NCA investigators established that they had organised the importations and collected the drugs from the airport. Anderson and Russell also spent some time in Jamaica when the importations were made, handling money and providing shipping documentation to VCM via Tucker. VCM has since been dissolved.
All three were charged with conspiracy to import cannabis, with Anderson also charged with possession with intent to supply cannabis after five kilos was found at his home following his arrest.
Anderson was convicted at Birmingham Crown Court on 29 November last year, with the other two found guilty on 30 November following a five-week trial.
At the same court this week (17 July) Anderson was jailed for nine years imprisonment, Russell to five years and Tucker to two years (suspended).
NCA Operations Manager Rick Mackenzie said:
“This crime group cynically used a religious organisation to conceal their multi-million pound drugs conspiracy.
“The illegal drugs trade fuels violence and exploitation in the UK while generating huge profits for the serious criminals behind it.
“The NCA works tirelessly, including with partners like Border Force, to pursue the traffickers and protect the UK public.”
Paul Harper, Border Force Central Region, said:
“Drugs are a plague to our neighbourhoods, exploiting the most vulnerable in our society.
“This seizure and others demonstrates the despicable lengths criminals will go to, exploiting a religion to line their own pockets, which will only cause harm to our communities.
“Thanks to this great work by Border Force officers at Birmingham Airport these drugs were stopped from infiltrating our communities, further highlighting our commitment to smashing the illegal drug trade and protecting our borders.
“Together with the NCA we will continue to tackle and break these disgraceful supply chains and go after those who seek to abuse our borders.”