A German truck driver has been jailed for 19 years after he tried to bring nearly half a tonne of cocaine into the UK that was hidden inside tyres on the back of his lorry.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said Kawus Rafiei, 57, was sentenced on Friday after he was found guilty of attempting to import Class A drugs following a five-day trial at Canterbury Crown Court in Kent.
The agency began investigating Rafiei, originally from Shiraz in Iran, after a “huge” drugs seizure was made at Dover’s Eastern Docks on March 18 last year.
Border Force officers had scanned Rafiei’s lorry and “detected an anomaly in the load”, the NCA said.
Two shrink-wrapped stacks of tyres within the trailer unit were opened, revealing packages of cocaine weighing 470 kilos (1,036lb).
Rafiei had paperwork for two “legitimate” deliveries on board and produced additional documentation for the tyres which showed they were loaded in the Netherlands and heading to a car fitting company in the UK, the NCA said.
But NCA officers were able to show the paperwork had been “doctored” for the cover load.
Forensic experts believe the seized drugs would have been worth an estimated £37.6 million once cut and sold on the streets of the UK.
NCA Dover branch commander Martin Grace said: “This seizure prevented a huge amount of cocaine from coming into the UK, and has landed a corrupt lorry driver in jail.
“The drugs trade leads to violence in our communities, and often it’s the most vulnerable people who suffer the consequences.
“Working with partners like Border Force, we are committed to breaking the supply chain, and disrupting the organised crime groups involved.”