Dock workers were part of £3m drug gang, court is told

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TWO Portsmouth dock workers were part of an organised gang that smuggled £3m of cocaine into the UK hidden under a load of fruit, a court heard.

Mark Burgess and Shaun Wilson are alleged to have been part of a massive drugs ring.

They are being tried along with four other men; Richard Edwards, Roy Godber, David Roberts and Jason Flisher, who all deny the charge.

The six have gone on trial at Winchester Crown Court accused of smuggling 15kg of pure cocaine into the city from Costa Rica in Central America in November last year.

A seventh man, Eric Ward, has admitted being the driver and picking the drugs up from the dock.

The crown says the gang spent 10 months planning the operation.

Prosecutor Richard Jory said: ‘In November last year about 26kg of white powder, which itself contained over 15kg of pure cocaine, was brought by ship from Costa Rica to Portsmouth.

‘The prosecution say that all the defendants played some role in that importation.

‘It required careful planning, it needed those involved to be trustworthy and discreet because everyone involved had an interest in not being caught.’

He said the men held meetings at the Coach and Horses pub in Hilsea and at McDonald’s in the Ocean Retail Park, in Burrfields Road, as they planned their crime.

The drugs were brought in hidden under bananas and pineapples on the MV Emerald ship, which was delivering the fruit for Fyffes, which knew nothing about the plot.

Wilson and Burgess both worked for MMD Shipping, based in Prospect Road, Portsmouth, and were responsible for unloading the cargo.

Mr Jory said: ‘Wilson’s role was to provide the top end of the organisation with details of ships that came in and when they came in and other such information.

‘He tasked Mr Burgess with physically taking the bags which the drugs were in and handing them over to Mr Ward.’

Edwards, Godber and Roberts are said to have been the organisers of the plot, with Edwards the one who had contacts in Costa Rica.

Flisher is said to have been the go-between for the organisers and the dock workers.

They were all arrested in November after a pain-staking investigation by the Serious and Organised Crime Agency. Burgess, 43, of Village Road, Gosport and Wilson, 43, of Madeira Road, North End, Portsmouth, deny a charge of being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of the prohibition on the importation of goods.

Edwards, 48, of Kempton Road, Barking, east London, Godber, 61, of Wennington Road, Rainham, Essex, Flisher, 40, of Canterbury Road, Folkestone, Kent and Roberts, 58, of Shannon Way, Waverley, Essex also deny the charge.

Ward, 53, of Copythorn Road, Portsmouth, has pleaded guilty to the offence.

He was arrested leaving the port in a hired van with the drugs in two bags on November 3.

The trial is expected to last up to six weeks.

(Proceeding)