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news.telegraph.co.ukOne in 10 fliers from Jamaica 'is drug mule'
By John Steele, Crime Correspondent and David Millward
(Filed: 04/01/2002)

A TENTH of all passengers flying from Jamaica to Britain could be carrying cocaine, a British diplomat has warned.

Phil Sinkinson, deputy high commissioner in Kingston, the Jamaican capital, said as much as 30kg of the drug could be arriving on each plane hidden inside couriers.

Many of the "mules" were poor Jamaicans, especially single mothers, tempted by payments of more than 3,000 from drug barons in Jamaica or their associates in Britain.

Mr Sinkinson said a recent report that one in 10 passengers from Jamaica could be carrying drugs might be an underestimate. He said: "There's certainly a fair number and each one can be carrying half a kilo. If you had 60 people on board the flight there would be 30kg of cocaine.

"If you consider they are coming from areas of pretty desperate poverty, a lot of them single mothers, it's very important for them to be able to get hold of a fast buck to look after the family."

Mr Sinkinson's warning, on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, comes as Air Jamaica plans to increase its weekly flights between Heathrow and Jamaica from five to nine. From June, it will also introduce two flights each week from Manchester. British Airways has four weekly flights from Gatwick.

 

Some police officers are known to be concerned that the extra flights will provide Jamaica's Yardie gangsters with further smuggling opportunities, despite the two airlines' commitment to security measures.

The scale of the problem was illustrated last month. On Dec 3, 23 passengers on an Air Jamaica flight to Heathrow were arrested and charged after allegedly swallowing cocaine with a street value of up to 1 million.

On Dec 12, 250,000 worth of cocaine was discovered on a BA flight to Gatwick. Sixteen passengers were arrested for allegedly swallowing packets of the drug.

However, there was some scepticism, particularly in Customs circles, about the suggested scale of the drugs being brought in by couriers. Last year, Customs seized about 11 tons of cocaine. Almost 750kg, well below 10 per cent, originated in Jamaica, most coming in "mules".

The vast bulk of cocaine smuggled into Europe and the UK comes in freight, particularly sea freight, organised by the Colombian cartels.

Britain's National Criminal Intelligence Service estimates that 25 to 40 tons of cocaine is targeted on Britain each year. Customs sources say they believe that "mules" on airplanes bring in as much as three tons a year.

This is only about a quarter of the total that would be smuggled in if Mr Sinkinson's estimate of 30kg a flight is correct.

However, Customs sources do not believe that the distribution of cocaine on Jamaica flights is even. Some will have no "mules" while others will have a high number of drug carriers.

Mike Lowe, the branch secretary in the Public and Commercial Services Union, agreed with Mr Sinkinson's views. "The figures are not an exaggeration," Mr Lowe said at Heathrow yesterday. "This is certainly a problem and one that has been on the increase for the last two to three years."

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