Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Bag handler guilty of smuggling

A Heathrow Airport baggage handler played a "crucial" role in a cocaine smuggling ring, a court has found.

Kamaljit Bassi, 40, from Hayes in Middlesex, admitting taking parcels from two passengers' bags last year.

But he said he had been expecting them to contain diamonds, not drugs. Customs officers removed 11kg of cocaine from the parcels before they reached the UK.

Bassi was found guilty of two counts of conspiring to import controlled drugs at Guildford Crown Court.

Prosecutor Andrew Bird told jurors at the start of the trial in May that Bassi's role in the plot had been "crucial".

"Just imagine that those who organise drugs smuggling have access to an inside man at Heathrow Airport," he said.

"A man who can remove the precious and forbidden cargo and take it out through controls using privileges that airport insiders have.

"This is Mr Bassi's role on both counts."

Bassi's fellow conspirators Junior Royes, 39, of Kensal Green, London, and Brian Emile, 49, Greenford, west London, were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to import controlled drugs.

All three men will be sentenced on Friday.

Two unsuspecting drug mules also arrested last year were cleared of any role in the scheme.

Carlton Joseph, 54, of north London and 19-year-old south London child-minder Rachelle Chapman, flew in separately from Brazil and Guyana on 16 February 2003.