How the law caught up with the £1 million drug runners
A matter of weeks was all it took for the States police to intercept and dismantle an organised crime group who smuggled more than £1 million worth of cannabis into Jersey using a hired RIB. Shannyn Quinn reports on how the force worked with other authorities to prevent the drugs from being sold on Jerseys streets
ON the evening of 17 June, while Islanders were winding down for the day, 22 States police and Customs officers were covertly monitoring all the main bays across the Island.
An intelligence tip-off led the force to become aware of an organised crime gang's plan to smuggle drugs into Jersey. However, officers had no idea which bay the boat would come into, or when exactly it would arrive.
Operation Lundy was launched, involving authorities across three jurisdictions - Jersey, Guernsey and France - and leading to one of the biggest drug seizures the Island has seen in recent years.
Detective Inspector Steve Langford, who led the operation, said that the successful seizure of about £1 million worth of cannabis resin – a class B drug in Jersey – would strike a significant blow to drug traffickers across the Channel Islands.
'The proximity of us to France is one of the biggest challenges for the force in dealing with this type of criminality because of the ease in which people can travel to the Island through private vessels or using Condor,' he said.
'We had to consider the potential threat to the community, and we knew that a large commercial amount of drugs coming to the Island would be significant.
'These types of importations have happened historically in Jersey, and we have been successful in some of those as well,' Det Insp Langford said.
At 6 pm on 17 June a grey 300 horsepower RIB – which was later found to have been hired from Dinard in Brittany – was seen heading towards Bouley Bay. Non-uniformed officers, who were monitoring the area, contacted other colleagues who had been broken up into smaller groups across the Island, and they located to the north-coast to observe the two men on board the fast-moving boat.
'They moored the boat and then got off onto a small inflatable carrying two rucksacks. We suspected it was a commercial importation.'
The two men on board were Frenchmen Emmanuel Gautier (29) and Emmanuel Yves Joel Halais (39). Minutes before they stepped onto the Bouley Bay pier, Gautier was seen to wave in the direction of the shore.
After making their way onto the slip, officers seized the two rucksacks and found what they believed to be a large amount of tightly wrapped cannabis, as well as 488 euros in cash. The pair were then detained while investigations continued.
'The whole operation will have disrupted and caused damage to the criminals involved within this organised crime group. The two men were only a small part of that criminal group, and the damage will mostly be around profits,' Det Insp Langford said. 'We are confident that we have disrupted an organised crime group and a disruption to those who will be looking to receive the profits. But we believe that Jersey was its final destination.'
Meanwhile, enforcement agencies in Guernsey were also monitoring a number of bays to ensure that if the drugs were destined for Guernsey and not Jersey, the suspects could still be caught. Jersey officers contacted the Guernsey force once the two men had been arrested so that they could stand down.
The vessel the French duo had travelled on was seized by officers and was taken to La Collette Marina for further investigation. During the process, a further three rucksacks filled with cannabis were found concealed aboard the boat.
Det Insp Langford said: 'The decision to detain the two men there and then was the right one. We were concerned that if they were to store the two packages and get back on the boat, we could have lost them or could have lost the further consignment.
'In arresting them there and then, not only did we manage to get the rucksacks that they were carrying, but we also got three more rucksacks that were concealed on the boat.'
Later, analysis found that the men had been carrying a total of 58.3 kg of cannabis which had a street value of about £1 million.
Det Insp Langford said that Jersey was often targeted by drug smugglers because of the inflated profits that could be made in selling drugs in the Island.
The detective believes that the two men were no more than 'mules' to bring the drugs to the Island and would not be the
ones responsible for the distribution of them.
'We suspect strongly that those selling the drugs would have been local people, and we will do everything we can to identify who they are,' he said. 'This type of criminality always forms a bigger picture which will continue to be targeted. While we recognise the success of Operation Lundy, it doesn't stop here for us. It will continue to be a priority.
'If people are in a position where they want to take the risk in being involved with this criminality, they are going to have to take the consequences if they are caught.'
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