Press release -

Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) (National): Drugs gang members jailed for scrap metal plot

Two members of an organised crime gang which tried to import more than £10 million-worth of Class A drugs hidden in huge consignments of scrap metal, have today been sentenced to a total of 30 years in prison.

Neil Tindling and Christopher Foile received 22 and eight years respectively for attempting to smuggle almost 225 kilograms of cocaine into the UK from The Netherlands.

SOCA’s investigation began after Dutch authorities seized a shipment of cocaine in April 2008 welded inside metal blocks and hidden within a container of scrap metal destined for the UK.

The following October, SOCA officers intercepted a copycat shipment on the MV Olivia Maersk, berthed at Rotterdam.

They removed 11 steel blocks and cut them open to reveal aluminum shells containing 224.46 kilograms of cocaine.

Officers replaced the cocaine with sand, welded the blocks shut and returned them to the containers. On 14 October the containers left Rotterdam and continued their journey to the UK under surveillance.

The destination was a bankrupt company in Leeds with a contact name of Brandon Coates, the third member of the gang.

On 15 October, Coates checked the status of the shipment and gave a new destination address in Leytonstone, London. He then paid the shipping company £9,000 in cash for a consignment of scrap metal with a total value of just £600.

The containers were delivered on 31 October to Leytonstone. SOCA officers were watching and recorded surveillance footage of Coates overseeing and assisting with the unloading of the containers.

Three days later the metal blocks were transferred to an isolated rural farm in Essex. Within 15 minutes of the lorry departing officers moved in and arrested Coates, Tindling and Foile as they attempted to cut open one of the blocks with a metal disc cutter.

The three men pleaded guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court in September 2009. Brandon Coates is awaiting sentence.

Gerry Smyth, of SOCA, said:

“These men had no regard for the serious harm their drug trafficking would cause to individuals and communities. Welding nearly 225 kilos of cocaine inside metal blocks must have been time-consuming work and shows the extraordinary lengths criminals are prepared to go to for the sake of money.

“They made the mistake of assuming that oversize containers of scrap metal would avoid scrutiny. SOCA and its partners are not so easily deterred.”

Ian Frost, of the Crown Prosecution Service Organised Crime Division, said:

“The CPS was engaged from an early stage alongside SOCA in their investigation into this case. We worked together with SOCA and the Dutch judicial authorities to put together a compelling case, which resulted in guilty pleas by all three defendants.

“This team working approach meant not only that a large amount of drugs was prevented from reaching the streets of this country but that the gang responsible for this determined attempt was brought to justice.”

Notes to Editors

Neil Richard Tindling: DOB 10/06/1974
Dimsdale Crescent, Bishop’s Stortford. Hertfordshire

Christopher Foile: DOB 17/08/1967
Bran End, Stebbing. Essex.

Awaiting sentence:

Brandon Dwane Coates: DOB 24/03/1976
Springbank Road, Morley, Gildersome, Leeds


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