A MAN who helped to smuggle millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the country through Portsmouth’s ferry port has been jailed for 14 years.
Mark West, 36, (pictured), of Purley, in Surrey, was sentenced at Portsmouth Crown Court for his part in a conspiracy to import the drugs from Spain between April 2011 and October 2012.
It follows a 15-year sentence handed down in July to Michael Ebanks, 33, of Sevenoaks Road in Orpington, Kent, for the same crime.
But West pleaded guilty to the charge, whereas Ebanks was convicted after a trial.
West was involved in buying materials used to pack and conceal the drugs and distributing the consignments after they arrived in the UK.
The court heard West had made trips to Malaga in Spain, sometimes with Ebanks, to organise the importation of the drugs.
In giving the sentence, Recorder John Trevaskis said it was clear that West had a ‘management role’ in the conspiracy.
He said: ‘You are someone who has been actively and fully involved in this conspiracy. You had substantial links to and influence on others in the chain of the supply and distribution of drugs.
‘I find that you had a financial motive for doing this.
‘This was clearly a highly profitable operation.’
West and Ebanks were arrested following the seizure of 52kg of high-purity cocaine at Portsmouth International Port on October 18 last year.
The load had a street value of between £4.8m and £10.4m.
Police believe that consignment followed more than 30 similar importations brought through Portsmouth and other ferry ports by unsuspecting couriers.
The drugs were hidden in crates of rubber, which Ebanks claimed were imported for sale to tyre companies Pirelli, Goodyear, Dunlop and Michelin.
The crates were sent to Lower Cousley Wood Farm in Wadhurst, East Sussex, where West and Ebanks unpacked the cocaine and prepared it for further sale.
West used a van from his window cleaning business to transport the drugs onwards from the farm.
National Crime Agency senior investigation officer Tim Fleming said he was pleased with the sentence.
He said: ‘The sentence handed down today reflects the serious nature of the drug smuggling enterprise that Mark West was involved in over an 18-month period.’
He said the agency would now focus on seizing the assets of West and Ebanks.