Crooked officer helped smuggle millions of pounds worth of guns and drugs into Britain

A crooked UK border officer was snared trying to smuggle more than £3 million worth of firearms and drugs into Britain.

Detectives believe the guns and drugs would have been used to fuel rising gang violence in London.

At a press briefing today ahead of Simon Pellett’s sentencing, Det Superintendent Neil Ballard, of Scotland Yard’s Organised Crime Command, said: “The guns are recognised brands, they are forensically clean and modern – that would undoubtedly end up on the street of London, used for violence and gang criminality and the harm that’s linked to it.

“The sorts of guns we see here in this haul are the most commonly used guns in the UK.

“We would say the drugs at least initially were destined for London. The guns can be used numerous times in violence. The guns and drugs would have contributed significantly to the violent situation among gangs at the moment.

“The mix of drugs and firearms together, the impact of those combined on the gang situation, it is a significant seizure.”

The haul included pistols from the Second World War, and an American revolver – alongside 28 kilos of cocaine and six kilos of heroin.

Pellett, 37, had been working for the UK Border Force for over a decade in roles that included detecting and preventing the smuggling of contraband.

But he was arrested with two accomplices as they loaded duffle bags full of pistols, revolvers, heroin and cocaine in a French car park in October last year.

Pellett, along with David Baker, 55, and Alex Howard, 35, were found guilty at Isleworth Crown Court following a trial earlier this month.

The gang were under surveillance as part of an investigation between the Met’s Organised Crime Command, the National Crime Agency and French Police.

Baker was seen collecting eight pistols, two revolvers, a large quantity of ammunition, 28 kilos of cocaine and six kilos of heroin in Belgium.

He drove through France to meet Pellett and Howard at a supermarket car park between Calais and Dunkirk.

Pellett was then to take the bags back to the UK via the Channel Tunnel as, being an employee of Border Force, he would not have been subjected to the same stringent security measures as other travellers.

But they were caught in the act and extradited back to the UK.

Detectives from the Specialist Crime Command said today (Fri) Pellett’s abuse of position was ‘abhorrent’ but represented just one member of the border agency.

Mr Ballard said “It’s not widespread. It’s quite a unique situation.

“Pellett was the proverbial bad apple. It’s abhorrent he abused his position as a member of Border Force without any thought for what those guns and drugs can do.

“This is pretty unprecedented.

“The size of the haul reflects the confidence they had in the corrupt border force official.”

Det Chief Insp Sam Cailes added: “It’s our opinion it’s not the first importation that’s taken place. We don’t know when the relationship started but it was going on for some time.

“When he started working his job was to protect the importation of guns and drugs. By the time of his arrest, he had been promoted a few times.

“He had been moved – his job was to fix the detection equipment for human smuggling and again drugs and firearms being concealed. That gave him the freedom to travel.

“He was in such a trusted position that he wouldn’t be subjected to checks that we would through the ports.”

It is believed the trio is part of a wider organised criminal network responsible for smuggling drugs and firearms into the UK.

DCI Cailes said: “He lives down in Kent and some of the people involved lived in that area. But we can’t say how they all met.”

On October 6 last year, Pellet collected an official Border Force van and drove it to France via the channel tunnel alone.

But the NCA had placed a listening device in his van, and as he drove he was heard making arrangements to rendezvous with Howard and Baker between Calais and Dunkirk in Loon-Plage,

Pellet went to a wine warehouse to buy bottles and placed them in a visible place at the front of his van. He then drove further into France to the pre-arranged meeting point at a supermarket car park in Loon-Plage.

Howard was waiting in the car park area whilst Baker placed three heavy holdalls into the Border Force van. All three men were then arrested by French police.

The three holdalls were subsequently found to contain eight pistols, two revolvers, a large quantity of ammunition, 28 kgs of cocaine and 6 kgs of heroin.

The drugs had a total street value of £3.4 million and the guns are believed to be worth around £33,000 in total.

The firearms included self-loading and machine pistols, revolvers, silencers and suitable ammunition. There was also ammunition suitable for a Scorpion sub-machine gun.

All three suspects were extradited from France to the UK on May 11 this year and stood trial on 8 October. They were convicted this week and are due to be sentenced today.

Pellett, of Dover, was found guilty of three counts of being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of the prohibition on the importation of goods (smuggling of cocaine, heroin and firearms) and misconduct in a public office.

Baker, of Eltham,south east London, was found guilty of three counts of being knowingly concerned in smuggling cocaine, heroin and firearms.

Howard, of Teynham, Kent, was found guilty of two counts of being knowingly concerned in smuggling cocaine, heroin and firearms.

Detectives say Pellett was of previous good character while Baker and Howard had only low-level previous convictions.

By Adela Whittingham

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