Cocaine smugglers jailed for 11 and 14 years

Two smugglers who attempted to bring more than £1m worth of cocaine into East Anglia through Norwich International Airport were today jailed for more than a decade each.

Two smugglers who attempted to bring more than £1m worth of cocaine into East Anglia through Norwich International Airport were today jailed for more than a decade each.

Harry Lum, 63, of Berkeley, California, and Griet Onsea, 34, from Uganda, were arrested after eight customs officers, acting on intelligence, searched their luggage when they arrived at Norwich in July. They found 12kg of the class A drug with an estimated street value of at least £1.2m and up to £2m.

Lum, a former commercial fisherman who told the court he had “taken a chance” because he was short of cash, pleaded guilty to importing 12kg of cocaine, was jailed for 11 years. Onsea, a former UN employee, was given 14 years in prison. She had denied smuggled 5.5kg of the drug but was found guilty by a jury.

Customs officials welcomed the sentencing at Norwich Crown Court, saying it would act as a deterrent to other smugglers. John Phillips, HM Revenue & Customs acting head of investigation, said: “We are extremely pleased with the results in this case and the sentences given to those convicted. This case demonstrates that regional airports such as Norwich are not a soft touch.”

Judge Peter Jacobs described how the pair flew into Norwich having spent two and a half days together in the same hotel in Nairobi. They had $6,000 in cash which they used to buy two returned tickets via Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

Judge Jacobs said that when confronted by customs Onsea gave a “totally unconvincing explanation, maintaining that at worst you thought you were importing money”.

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During the examination of their luggage, officers discovered several taped packages concealed within the linings of their cases. Some packages were gift wrapped in Christmas paper.

Lum ran a company buying minerals and said he was in the UK to investigate geological mineral surveys. He said he had not earned any income for three years and had been living on savings of £200,000, which had run out, after which he lived off charity from friends.

He said two African men, known only as “Peter” and “Frederick”, had supplied them with the drugs in luggage, and on arriving in Norwich they were to deliver them to the Holiday Inn, where they would be paid £10,000.

“I have seen the deaths of several people in drug rehabilitation and the serious misery that drugs can cause and have taken this into account in sentencing,” Judge Jacobs said.

Michael Clare, defending Lum, said he had a family in America and an 11-year-old son and wife in Uganda. He took up the offer because he was down on his luck,

William Carter, defending Onsea, described it as a “tragic case”. He said her four-year-old child, living in Belgium, would be without a mother for some time.