Airports 'are not soft on drugs'

Customs officials last night warned smugglers that regional airports are no “soft touch” after making their second major seizure of cocaine at Norwich International in a week.

Customs officials last night warned smugglers that regional airports are no “soft touch” after making their second major seizure of cocaine at Norwich International in a week.

The discovery of the Class A drugs with a street value of £500,000 comes after a haul worth £1m - the largest ever in Norwich - was uncovered last week.

Intelligence suggests criminals are increasingly attempting to avoid tight security at larger ports and airports. But the officer in charge of the operation said the two recent seizures proved smaller airports were no weak link in the chain.

Jim Jarvie, head of operations for detection, said the finds would play a key role in disrupting the supply of Class A drugs to streets in East Anglia.

He added: “This seizure is a significant step forward in fighting the war on drugs and sends out a clear message that regional airports such as Norwich are not a soft touch.

“Our detection skills using flexible deployments are second to none and are an effective way to combat this kind of smuggling.”

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Following the latest raid Austrian national Johann Jacum, 50, yesterday pleaded guilty to smuggling cocaine into the UK at Norwich magistrates. He will be held in custody and is expected to be sentenced in six weeks.

Jacum was stopped and searched at Norwich after arriving on a passenger flight from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. Eight kilos of cocaine were found in his luggage.

Belgian Griet Onsea, 33, and American Harry Lum, 63, who were arrested in connection with the previous seizure remain in custody awaiting their next court appearance.

They are yet to enter pleas but are accused of smuggling up to 20 kilos of cocaine. Their airport of departure has not been disclosed as investigations in that country are continuing.

Smuggling offences carry a maximum sentence of 14 years in jail.

Anyone with information relating to smuggled goods should contact HMRC's confidential hotline number on 0800 59 5000.