Portsmouth dock workers stand trial over 'colossal' Colombian cocaine shipment worth £118 million smuggled in bananas intended for Tesco stores
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Michael Jordan, 44, of London Road, Portsmouth, Michael Butcher, 65, of Victory Avenue, Waterlooville, and Clayton Harwood, 55, from St David’s Road, Southsea all stand accused of aiding the drug smuggling operation.
A fourth dockworker – David Oliver, 44, of Cornwall Road, Fratton – has admitted conspiring to import class A drugs.
A fifth individual – Ahmet Aydin – allegedly conspired to drive the drugs out of the port.
In April, more than 1.5 tonnes of cocaine – worth £118m – was discovered onboard cargo ship Atlantic Clipper by Dutch police in the port city of Flushing, part of the ship’s route from Turbo, in Colombia, to Portsmouth.
Now a jury has heard about the four dockworkers’ ‘peculiar’ behaviour surrounding two pallets that had been emptied of drugs and rigged with police audio recording devices.
Prosecuting barrister Robin Leach said: ‘Border Force and the National Crime Agency repackaged the two pallets. The two pallets were repackaged with dummy bricks and audio recording equipment, deliberately.
‘The audio equipment proved to be useful, recording voices close to the pallets.’
The prosecution said audio devices recorded what sounds like barcodes being ripped from the pallets.
The day before the pallets were moved, Oliver had sent Jordan a Snapchat message that contained the pallet’s barcode numbers, saying ‘both in shed 13, rack 20’.
Mr Leach told the jury that Butcher, the foreman for storage shed 13 at the docks, had shown a ‘peculiar’ interest in Border Force’s work amid the arrival of the Atlantic Clipper and its cargo.
The jury was presented with CCTV images that the prosecution claimed to show Jordan moving the two pallets from shed 13 to shed 10 across Portsmouth International Dock on April 24.
A ‘disproportionate’ number of chats and meetings between the three dockworkers were held throughout the day, with Harwood and Butcher showing ‘an enormous amount of interest’ in Aydin’s arrival in a lorry, escorting the vehicle to shed 10, according to Mr Leach.
The lawyer added that Aydin arrived with ‘no legitimate documentation’ relating to the two pallets he was due to collect.
Messages on Aydin’s phone show concern about the lorry being stopped by the police as it drove from to Sutton Scotney services near Winchester.
The trial continues.