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Man handed three-year prison term for £450,000 cocaine smuggling operation

A football scout who helped smuggle £450,000 of cocaine into Scotland in a specially adapted van has been jailed.

Jordan McKinlay, 30, was handed a sentence of three years and nine months at the High Court in Glasgow by Lord Scott on Wednesday after earlier admitting supplying drugs.

He worked with Gary O’Connell, 23, to ferry the drugs from England. The Crown Office said O’Connell was jailed for four years in December for his role.

McKinlay was snared after police uncovered a secret compartment inside a Renault Kangoo van where nine blocks of cocaine worth £452,000 were stashed – revealed only once a magnet was used to open the door.

After sentencing, Laura Buchanan, procurator fiscal for specialist casework at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, described it as a “co-ordinated effort to bring significant quantities of illegal and harmful drugs into Scotland”.

Both men were brought together by a mutual friend who said he had a job for them to do, the Crown Office said, and the football scout’s role was to provide joiner O’Connell with a van for the return trip to Blackburn, Lancashire.

McKinlay took delivery of the van after it had been driven to Blackburn and back in April 2020 by O’Connell, of Castlemilk, Glasgow.

O’Connell then parked the vehicle outside McKinlay’s home in Gartcosh, North Lanarkshire, and handed over the keys.

But later that night, specialist officers swooped on the vehicle after McKinlay had driven off in a second van.

The Crown Office said police used a magnet to reveal the specially adapted space and discovered the haul of the class A drug.

McKinlay was later arrested at the Fort Shopping Centre in Easterhouse, Glasgow, and officers found a similar secret compartment in his van and the keys to the Renault.

As well as the drugs, EncroChat phones – encrypted mobiles which are used mainly by serious and organised crime gangs – were recovered which revealed a third party discussing a drugs pick-up with O’Connell.

Ms Buchanan said the prosecution should send a strong warning to drug traffickers.

“These individuals threaten communities across Scotland. With each successful prosecution, we can help reduce the harm these drugs inflict on communities,” she said.