Two international drug dealers jailed for a total of 26 years after being caught trying to smuggle cocaine into the UK

A PAIR of drug dealers have been jailed a total of 26 years for plotting to bring cocaine into the UK by boat.

Friday, 29th April 2022, 7:54 pm
Updated Friday, 29th April 2022, 7:55 pm

The two were jailed for their parts in a plot to smuggle cocaine which was halted when their boat was intercepted in the English Channel.

Edward Duggin, 33, of Norris Way, Buntingford, Hertfordshire, along with Thomas Snell, aged 31, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to conspiring to fraudulently avoid the prohibition on the importation of a controlled drug of Class A – cocaine.

Justine Romaraog, 22, of Talfourd Way, Redhill, Surrey, also pleaded guilty to the same offence at a hearing at the same court the following day.

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Edward Duggin, 33, of Norris Way, Buntingford, Hertfordshire, pleaded guilty to conspiring to fraudulently avoid the prohibition on the importation of a controlled drug of Class A - cocaine. He was sentenced to 15 years behind bars at Southampton Crown Court.

Today Duggin was sentenced to 15 years behind bars and Romaraog to 11 years at Southampton Crown Court.

The convictions follow a joint investigation by the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) and the National Crime Agency with the support of law enforcement partners.

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UK Border Force boarded an Azimut 50 Motor Cruiser called Bubble E that the defendants were travelling on in the English Channel off the coast of Falmouth, Cornwall, on October 14 last year.

Justine Romaraog, 22, of Talfourd Way, Redhill, Surrey, pleaded guilty to conspiring to fraudulently avoid the prohibition on the importation of a controlled drug of Class A - cocaine. He was jailed for 11 years at Southampton Crown Court.

Officers uncovered that the defendants had been carrying out a ‘practice-run’ by conducting planned interceptions at sea with South American ships in order to assess the viability of collecting jettisoned packages.

Traces of white powder, later confirmed to be cocaine, were found on board the vessel inside a hidden space at the back of a wardrobe, indicating that the space had been used for the storage of cocaine in the past.

Messages discovered on Duggin’s mobile phone showed the use of an encrypted application and the content indicated the group’s intention.

The defendants were arrested and subsequently charged in connection with the conspiracy.

The Bubble E, the yacht used by Edward Duggin, 33, of Norris Way, Buntingford, Hertfordshire, and Justine Romaraog, 22, of Talfourd Way, Redhill, Surrey, in their attempt to smuggle cocaine into the UK.

As the investigation continued it was discovered that Bubble E and its crew – Romaraog and Duggin – had previously left Southampton Water on September 9 with the intention of meeting a yacht in the English Channel. The purpose of the trip was to take on board two tonnes of cocaine that had been smuggled from South America by the wider organised crime group.

However, as a result of an operation by the NCA and UK Border Force, the inbound yacht was intercepted and the drugs discovered.

Those upon Bubble E did not make it to the meeting and returned to port undiscovered.

GPS data recovered from the vessel indicated that it had performed suspiciously near a South American container ship in darkness on another occasion.

Investigating officer Detective Sergeant Dan Hope, of SEROCU, said: ‘Duggin and Romaraog have been sentenced for their parts in an agreement to import large quantities of cocaine – a drug which causes widespread harm across the country and goes hand-in-hand with a myriad of other offences – exploitation, crime to fund addiction and harm to the most vulnerable in society.

‘Officers from the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit led a complex investigation, working closely with law enforcement partners including UK Border Force and the National Crime Agency to ensure evidence was shared and these three men faced justice.

‘We’ll continue to work together to ensure we tackle the threat serious and organised crime has upon the communities of the south east.’

Snell is due to be sentenced on June 9.