A drug smuggler has been jailed for 20 years after using a shipment of children's toys to bring cocaine into the UK, police have said.
Chris Michaelides, from Essex, was sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court on Friday after previously pleading guilty to several offences including conspiracy to supply a controlled drug and possession of a firearm.
Releasing details of the case, the Metropolitan Police said the 52-year-old, of Millwell Crescent, Chigwell, was arrested in 2020 following investigations also involving the National Crime Agency and authorities in European.
Detective Inspector Lee Byne, from the force's specialist crime unit, said the evidence against him was "overwhelming" and that the drugs he helped to import into the UK "would no doubt have devastated many lives and communities".
The specialist investigation into Michaelides found he was using an encrypted mobile phone for his criminal communications, the force said.
Messages showed he was in contact with others based in the UK, Holland and the Czech Republic, and was involved in the importation of cocaine, with conversations indicating that the criminal enterprises had been operating for about six years.
One arranged job involved a lorry carrying children's playing bricks that was also loaded with 50kg of "high purity" cocaine for import into the UK and onward distribution in April 2020. Messages showed that Michaelides played a "leading role in facilitating this", police said.
Met officers said the plan was thwarted when the vehicle was intercepted at the Port of Dover. However, the criminal group tried again, setting up a similar importation of cocaine, believed to be 37kg, on 1 June 2020.
This time, the drugs consignment was intercepted in Europe before it could reach the UK.
Detectives searched Michaelides' home on 30 June 2020. A .25 Steyr handgun, stored with seven rounds of ammunition, was discovered in a wardrobe in his bedroom, and officers also found a UK passport with his photograph, issued under an assumed identity.
Quantities of cannabis were also found throughout the house and a number of cannabis plants were growing in the garden, police said. A CS gas canister - which is a prohibited firearm - was found in another bedroom.
Michaelides was arrested nearby shortly afterwards and charged the following day.
In a statement following the sentencing, DI Byne said: "Thanks to great partnership working, the evidence we were able to gather against Michaelides was so overwhelming that he had no choice but to plead guilty to the charges laid against him.
"Michaelides played an instrumental part in this criminal network, which had been importing huge quantities of Class A drugs - hidden in innocent shipments, including children's toys - for many years. The drugs he helped to import to the UK over those years no doubt devastated many lives and communities.
"The firearms and weapons we found at Michaelides house once again demonstrates the undeniable link between drugs and violence. This is why disrupting all routes of drug supply continues to be central to our work to tackle violence on London's streets."