19 September 2017
An American footballer who flew cocaine with a street level value of £716,000 into the UK in a light aircraft has been jailed for 10 years.
Dutch national Kevin Ricardo Bourne admitted importing the Class A drugs when the plane landed on 27 December 2016 at Biggin Hill Airfield, south east London.
The plane arrived from a small airfield in Hoeven, near Rotterdam, where IT worker Bourne, plays American football part time.
There were four occupants in the plane: two Dutch crew, Bourne and his German girlfriend. No action was taken against the others.
Border Force officers discovered nine kilograms of cocaine inside plastic bags hidden in a large black bag Bourne was carrying and the National Crime Agency (NCA) began investigating.
Bourne, aged 32, was also carrying a small bag.
When he was stopped by Border Force officers, he tried to take the large bag back to the aircraft before they could search it.
When asked if he owned the bags, he said no, indicating only the small bag was his.
Bourne, who had flown to the UK in a light aircraft 11 times since August 2016, told them: “I was instructed to take this.”
When investigators asked him who by, he replied: “The person who gave it to me,” failing to identify the person.
He originally claimed he did not know what was inside the big bag.
Bourne, of Amsterdam, Holland, initially pleaded guilty on the basis of duress but this was not accepted by the prosecution.
He said during summer 2016 he was befriended by someone in Holland who he met through playing American Football.
The person offered him free trips in small aircraft, which Bourne accepted in good faith, he claimed.
This person then flew them both in a light aircraft and Bourne made financial contributions when he could.
He told Croydon Crown Court that in October 2016 he received a packet of photos at his home address showing his daughter at school and he feared for her safety.
Bourne said he received a phone call on Boxing Day from a mystery man who told him to take a package to London.
He accepted he knew the bag contained drugs, but was forced to bring it to the UK.
Bourne claimed he has not brought other drugs on the previous trips to the UK prior to December 2016.
The judge dismissed Bourne’s account describing his claims as “manufactured”.
Bourne was sentenced on Monday to 10 years imprisonment.
Gary Fennelly, NCA senior investigating officer, said: “Bourne’s story changed throughout the proceedings.
“He originally claimed he didn’t know he was carrying cocaine despite trying to reboard the plane with the bag when he saw officers approaching.
“Then he admitted trafficking the drugs to protect his daughter, but this account was shown to be a fabrication at court.
“Thanks to the vigilance of Border Force we were able to investigate this crime group and punch a hole in its capabilities.”
Dan Scully, Deputy Director Border Force Intelligence, said: “Border Force uses a range of techniques to identify and target suspicious activity in our skies that pose a threat to the border. This is another strong example of how our intelligence-led approach is protecting the UK.
“Working with our partners, nationally and internationally, in this operation we were able to tackle a very serious threat and protect communities by preventing dangerous and illegal drugs reaching our streets.”
Border Force and the NCA are among the partners in Project Pegasus, a multi-agency campaign encouraging people living and working close to small airfields to report unusual activity associated with general aviation.
Anyone with information can report it to their local police force on 101, or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.