A MAN has been sent to jail for trying to smuggle millions of pounds of cocaine into the country through Portsmouth International Port.
Michael Ebanks (pictured) was given a 15-year sentence at Portsmouth Crown Court for conspiracy to import drugs between April 2011 and October 2012.
The 33-year-old was arrested at the ferryport on October 18 last year after he was found with 52kg of high-purity cocaine.
The drugs, brought over from Spain, had a street value of between £4.8m and £10.4m.
The cocaine was being smuggled hidden in crates of recycled rubber, which Ebanks claimed was for resale to tyre companies.
Ebanks pleaded not guilty to taking part in the conspiracy and said he had been duped by others.
But a jury found him guilty of the charge.
In handing down the sentence, Recorder John Trevaskis said Ebanks, of Page Heath Lane, Bromley, played a major role.
He said: ‘I’ve concluded that the preponderance of evidence identifies you at the top of a significant role.
‘You were motivated in doing this by financial advantage.’
The court heard Ebanks had made several trips to Malaga to organise the import of the drugs, and had made repeated journeys to a remote farm in West Sussex where drugs were stored.
Prosecuting barrister Elizabeth Bussey-Jones said: ‘This entire operation was essentially a scam set up to disguise the real purpose of the trips.’
Mark West of Lansdowne Road in Purley, Surrey, was also involved but pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy.
He will be sentenced later this year.
Recorder Trevaskis commended National Crime Authority officers Robert Holness, Mark Chapman, Natalie Sewell and Richard Spurgeon for their work investigating the case.
Senior Investigation Officer Tim Fleming said: ‘This concludes a long and complex investigation conducted by NCA officers over an 18-month period.
‘The diligence of my officers has been reflected in the weight of evidence put before the court, resulting in these guilty verdicts and the substantial sentence handed down by the judge.’