Fake ambulances smuggled £1.6bn of drugs into UK, court finds

Drugs inside a fake ambulance. Photo; belfasttelegraph

Drugs inside a fake ambulance. Photo; belfasttelegraph

A British court on Friday convicted a Dutchman of conspiring to smuggle drugs with a street value of £1.6 billion (2.3 billion euros, $2.4 billion) in a fleet of fake ambulances into Britain.

The gang used bogus paramedic uniforms to drive ambulances packed with drugs across the Channel, with at least 45 trips identified over a 14-month period, the court heard.

One ambulance vehicle found by British police in June contained 193 kilos (426 pounds) of cocaine, 74 kilos of heroin and 60,000 ecstasy tablets hidden in seven compartments behind metal plates.

Prosecutor Robert Davies said the police tipped off Dutch authorities, who found “a fleet” of similarly adapted ambulances at two yards in the Netherlands.

It is estimated the operation may have seen £420 million in high-purity drugs into Britain with a street value four times that amount, prosecutors said.

The man convicted at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday was 55-year-old Leonardus Bijlsma.

Two other Dutchmen, Olof Schoon and Richard Engelsbel, had already admitted the charges.

All three will be sentenced next week.

“There will be some very frustrated high-level criminals out there who, given the size of their orders, will have lost a lot of money,” said Rob Lewin from Britain’s National Crime Agency.

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