Smuggler who brought £1.7m worth of cocaine into Portsmouth is jailed for eight years
A DRUG smuggler attempting to courier £1.68m worth of cocaine into Portsmouth from France in a lorry was caught red-handed by customs officers.
After 21 kilos of the Class A drug were discovered at Portsmouth docks, former Romanian army sergeant Ghiorghita Hapau, 42, told his captors: ‘I made a mistake.’
The defendant, of previous good character, will now serve eight years behind bars for the ‘isolated’ offence after he was sentenced at Portsmouth Crown Court.
The court heard how Hapau was delivering cargo for an Italian firm when he attempted the cross-Channel manoeuvre on a ferry from Le Havre, in France, on April 29.
Prosecutor Matthew Lawson told the court: ‘A search was carried out of his lorry. During the examination officers removed panels before finding packages concealed.
‘There were 21 packages each weighing one kilo with 60 per cent purity. The wholesale value of the drugs was worth £735,000 with the street value £1.68m.
‘When questioned by officers he said: “I understand. I made a mistake.” He then gave no comment when arrested by police.’
Despite his admission Hapau initially attempted to deny his role in the smuggling operation before changing his mind as his trial was about to start.
The defendant admitted drug smuggling.
His phone was confiscated for forensic examination but this was not carried out after the firm doing the investigation suffered a cyber attack.
In any event, Mr Lawson said of Hapau’s role: ‘The Crown do not see him as being any higher than that of a trusted courier.’
Defending, Thomas Horder, said Hapau was deeply remorseful. ‘It was the biggest mistake of his life,’ he told the court.
‘He was asked to deliver the drugs and be the courier. He was no higher up the food chain than that.
‘He did not package the drugs and was not responsible for concealing them.
‘It will have a big impact on his family who he supports as well as his two daughters, especially his 12-year-old who doesn’t know where he is yet.
‘He wants me to say how sorry he is and how out of character it is.’
Judge Roger Hetherington acknowledged it was an ‘isolated incident’ for ‘financial reward’ before sending Hapau, who lived in Italy, to jail.
National Crime Agency senior investigating officer Julian Harriman, said: ‘We were suspicious of this vehicle before it entered the UK and we were able to intercept it before it was able to bring a controlled substance into the UK drug market.’