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Ten charged over plot to deliver drugs by drone to UK jails

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Police in the UK have arrested eight men and two women on suspicion of being members of a gang that used drones to smuggle large quantities of drugs and other contraband into prisons across England.

Officers from West Midlands Police charged the 10 suspects, who were arrested in a series of early morning raids conducted on Wednesday, with three counts of conspiracy to supply drugs, new psychoactive substances and other banned items, including mobile phones and SIM cards, to prisoners.

Investigators believe members of the gang may have used drones to make as many as 90 deliveries to prisons across the country, including HMP Birmingham in Winson Green; HMP Oakwood and Featherstone; Worcestershire’s HMP Hewell; HMP Risley in Warrington; HMP Wymott in Lancashire and HMP Liverpool.

Commenting on the arrests, Detective Inspector Erica Field from the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit’s Prison Intelligence Unit and Prison Investigation team based in Birmingham, said: “These arrests are clearly very significant and come on the back of a detailed and very complex investigation into the smuggling of drugs and contraband to serving prisoners.

“Much of the violence behind bars is linked to drug use and supply so it’s vitally important we do all we can to cut off the supply lines – and anyone convicted of supplying banned substances into prisons can soon expect to be inmates themselves.”

The arrests come after UK Justice Secretary David Gauke last week warned that inmates in UK prisons are able to order drugs to their cells as easily as they might order a pizza on the outside thanks to prison drone deliveries.

In a speech on prison reform at the Royal Society of Arts in London, Gauke told an audience that synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice can be ordered by inmates with “Deliveroo-style responsiveness” on miniature mobile phones and delivered by drone to cell windows.

“It is clear that the reason drugs are so prevalent in our prisons is in large part because gangs are fuelling demand, boosting the supply and catching prisoners in a cycle of debt and further criminality from which they struggle to break free,” Gauke said.

Last December, eight members of a gang who smuggled drugs and other items into prisons across England and Scotland using drones were jailed for a total of 28 years.

Ringleader Craig Hickinbottom was sentenced to seven years and two months behind bars at Birmingham Crown Court after being found guilty of coordinating scores of drone deliveries to jails across Britain.

At the beginning of March it was reported that UK firm Skydroid has won a contract from the British government to design a proof of concept that would protect jails from smuggling attempts facilitated by drones.

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Colombian man caught with half kilo of cocaine under wig at Barcelona airport

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Police working at Barcelona’s El Prat international airport have arrested a man who was found to have half a kilo of cocaine concealed beneath an ill-fitting hairpiece.

Officers spotted the man after he arrived on a flight from the Colombian capital of Bogota.

They noticed that he was acting in a nervous manner and appeared to be sporting a disproportionately large hairpiece under a hat.

After taking him to one side for a search, investigators discovered a package of white powder that had been stuck to the man’s head underneath the outsized toupee.

The 65-year-old was arrested immediately, and was later charged after tests confirmed that the white powder was cocaine that was estimated to be worth €30,000 ($33,390).

In one photograph released by Spain’s national police force, the man can be seen from the side wearing a wig that protrudes to an unnatural height over the top of his head.

Another shot taken from the front shows the package of cocaine clearly visible beneath the hairpiece.

In a statement cited by the Reuters news agency, Spanish police said: “There is no limit to the inventiveness of drug traffickers trying to mock controls.”

Spain, which is one of the main entry points for cocaine exported into Europe from Colombia, has seen several novel large-scale smuggling attempts over the course of the past year, the majority of which appeared to have benefitted from better planning than the wig conspiracy.

Back in June, Spanish police revealed they had arrested 11 suspected traffickers after discovering a tonne of cocaine hidden inside fake stones shipped into the country from South America.

Investigators released a video that showed officers smashing open the bogus stones to discover 785 packages of cocaine, each of which was estimated to contain more than 1kg of the drug.

Just weeks earlier, police in the country announced they had smashed a South American organised trafficking network that injected large quantities of cocaine into plastic pellets before smuggling them to three specialist laboratories in Madrid and Toledo, where the drugs would be extracted by experts who had been flown in from Colombia.

Last August, Spanish investigators intercepted 67kgs of cocaine that had been concealed inside pineapple skins.

The gang behind the plot had hollowed out fresh pineapples before filling their skins with cylinders containing as much as 7kgs of cocaine each.

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Wildlife trade NGO TRAFFIC holds two-day workshop intended to improve animal crime conviction rates across India

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Wildlife trade NGO TRAFFIC holds two-day workshop

Illicit animal trade monitoring network TRAFFIC has helped organise a two-day conference in India intended to help local law enforcement officials improve wildlife crime conviction rates.

Held in cooperation with WWF-India, the Maharashtra Judiciary Academy and the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (Life), the event was designed to improve the knowledge of police officers responsible for wildlife crime in Maharashtra, Goa and Daman.

Dr Saket Badola, Head of TRAFFIC’s India office, said: “For any law in force, it is often not only the level of punishment but the surety of timely conviction, which act as crime deterrents.

“Proper orientation of judicial officers will ensure better implementation of wildlife, forest and environmental laws and help in controlling the crime.”

Commenting on efforts to crack down on wildlife crime in his region, Justice BP Dharmadhikari, Director of the Maharashtra Judicial Academy, said: “Over a period of time, Maharashtra has taken steps and passed several resolutions in the prevailing legal systems to protect and better manage the environment and forests.

“Most of the judges present may be dealing with such cases—therefore this orientation programme is very apt, timely and necessary.”

It was revealed earlier this month that a global crackdown on wildlife crime coordinated by Interpol and the World Customs Organisation (WCO) resulted in law enforcement officials in India making several seizures.

As part of the operation, Indian investigators discovered an infant langur that had been smuggled into the country from Bangladesh.

Elsewhere, the Indian Wildlife Crime Control Bureau seized a lesser flamingo from a pet shop, as well as live parakeets and munias during road checkpoint inspections.

The bureau was also involved in the discovery a smuggled lion cub that had been brought into the country from Bangladesh, and was scheduled for onward trafficking to the UK.

Back in February of this year, border inspectors working at India’s Chennai Airport in the state of Tamil Nadu stopped a man who was attempting to smuggle a weeks-old leopard cub into the country concealed inside his suitcase.

The man, who had arrived on a flight from Bangkok, was stopped when customs officials observed him behaving strangely while attempting to leave the terminal building, and then heard faint whimpering emanating from his luggage.

Indian and Burmese officials last year agreed at a bilateral summit to work more closely together to fight wildlife smuggling and drug trafficking on the border between the two countries.

In a statement issued last October, officials said: “It was… agreed to cooperate in preventing smuggling of wildlife and narcotic drugs and to strengthen cooperation on the international border management.”

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Police in US warn against flushing drugs down toilet through fear of creating ‘meth gators’

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US police have warned members of the public against flushing their methamphetamine stashes down the toilet in order to avoid creating what they describe as “meth gators”.

In a post that has now been taken down from its Facebook page, Loretto Police Department in Tennessee described an incident during which its officers caught a suspected drug dealer attempting to dispose of 12 grams of crystal methamphetamine and more than 700 millilitres of the liquid form of the drug by flushing it down his lavatory over the weekend.

After describing how officers charged the man with possession of drugs with intent to supply and tampering with evidence, the force cautioned against disposing of illegal drugs down toilets, noting how doing so could have an adverse effect on wildlife.

“This Folks… please don’t flush your drugs m’kay (sic). When you send something down the sewer pipe it ends up in our retention ponds for processing before it is sent down stream,” the post read.

“Now our sewer guys take great pride in releasing water that is cleaner than what is in the creek, but they are not really prepared for meth.

“Ducks, Geese, and other fowl frequent our treatment ponds and we shudder to think what one all hyped up on meth would do.

“Furthermore, if it made it far enough we could create meth gators in Shoal Creek and the Tennessee River down in North Alabama. They’ve had enough meth-ed up animals the past few weeks without our help.

“So, if you need to dispose of your drugs just give us a call and we will make sure they are disposed of in the proper way.”

While the effect drugs such as methamphetamine might have on alligators is unknown, a study published earlier this year by King’s College London revealed that every shrimp researchers tested in 15 river locations across the British county of Suffolk contained traces of cocaine.

The animals the scientists tested were also found to contain traces of other illicit drugs and potentially toxic substances, including ketamine, pesticides and pharmaceuticals.

Earlier this month, the UK’s Sun newspaper reported that a greyhound trainer was forced to give up his licence after it was discovered that he had fed cocaine to his dogs in an effort to make them run faster.

Thomas Jordan Jnr, 49, was told he had “no place in greyhound racing” after his plot to drug his dogs was uncovered.

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