Lorry driver had £500,000 hidden in tyres

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A man caught transporting £500,000 in drug money hidden in tyres has been jailed.

Thomas Kent, aged 45, formerly of Millers Way in Brighton, was stopped as he drove a vehicle transporter onto a ferry at Portsmouth in December 2012.

Kent, who worked for Manchester-based haulage firm Motor Movers, claimed the transit vans on the back of the transporter were for delivery to a client in the Mondragón area of northern Spain.

Inside one of the vans Border Force officers found four spare wheels which would not have fitted the vans. Stuffed inside three of the wheels were packages of cash.

The investigation, which was started by one of the UK Border Agency teams that transferred into the National Crime Agency, ended earlier this week when Kent was sentenced to five years at Portsmouth Crown Court for attempting to remove criminal property from the UK.

He was found guilty following a trial in January in which the court heard the money was likely to have been used to finance drug deals in Spain. The amount seized was roughly equivalent to what it would have cost to purchase around 20 kilos of cocaine at wholesale price.

Robert Holness, from the National Crime Agency’s Border Policing Command, said: ‘This was a significant amount of money and the way it was being transported, concealed within tyres, immediately made us suspicious.

‘By seizing this money we have derailed a deal which has kept dangerous drugs off the streets and has prevented criminals making a profit to reinvest in further crimes.’

During a previous trial the boss of the Motor Movers haulage firm, John Tague, 51, from Ormskirk, Lancashire, was acquitted of the same charge.