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Drugs gang tried to smuggle cocaine through the post, court hears
5:06pm Thursday 13th September 2007 in News
A drugs gang tried to smuggle more than £600,000 of cocaine through the post, a court heard.
More than 70 "Jiffy" envelopes were posted from Lima, Peru, to addresses in Crawley.
Detectives used an undercover officer posing as a postman to find out who took delivery of them.
Each contained brightly coloured Peruvian purses containing what appeared to be canisters of 35mm film.
But when police cracked them open they were packed with cocaine which was 98 per cent pure.
The bid to smuggle the drug into Britain was uncovered by customs officers at Frankfurt Airport, Germany, in August last year.
The 40 yellow Jiffy bags were all destined for addresses in Crawley.
Alan Kent, prosecuting, said German customs recorded the addresses and what the packets contained and then destroyed them.
He said a second consignment arrived at Frankfurt on October 12 and English customs were again tipped off.
Officers from Sussex Police serious organised crime unit collected the packages bound for six addresses in Crawley.
Mr Kent said: "It was important for police to see who would take delivery of the packages.
"They deconstructed them and created dummy packages to deliver in their place.
"On October 31, a police officer posing as a postman intended to deliver packages to four addresses on the envelopes."
One was addressed to David Wood at Hophurst Drive, Crawley.
Mr Kent said the door was answered by Paul Casella who allegedly said that he was Mr Wood.
The "postman" handed him five Jiffy bags addressed to Mr Wood.
Casella's brother Richard, who owned the house, was upstairs in bed and both were arrested after the packets had been accepted.
Paul Casella's home in Capricorn Close, Crawley, was searched and more Jiffy bags containing canisters of cocaine posted from Peru were found there.
The detective, still disguised as a postman, went to a dry cleaners in Maidenbower Square, Crawley.
Russell Lawrence allegedly told him he was the John Wall the packet was addressed to and put it under the counter.
Another package was addressed to an Andy Linger at Lawrence's flat above the dry cleaners.
Russell was arrested and a Jiffy bag marked Estudio Fotografico, Peru, was found in a filing cabinet in the dry cleaners.
It contained colourful Peruvian purses, film canisters and cocaine.
Lawrence told officers he had taken the packages for Lubhaia Ram who had assured him they did not contain drugs.
A third consignment of drugs was intercepted between October 30 and November 1 last year.
Mr Kent told Hove Crown Court that not all the packets were detected.
They turned up at some of the six Crawley addresses after the initial police raids.
The court heard that father and son Oscar Salas and Nathan Salas were also arrested.
Oscar Salas had been in Peru between June and October last year.
It is alleged impressions taken from pages of his diary matched names and addresses involved in the investigation.
Mr Kent said: "There are eight defendants in the dock.
"This case involves a conspiracy to smuggle cocaine through the post from Peru to England.
"You may conclude that some were involved in the finance and purchase and posting of the drugs from Peru.
"Others were involved in the English end receiving the packages and passing them on to others.
"The Crown alleges Ram, Oscar Salas and Nathan Salas were involved in the purchase of the cocaine and organising posting it on to address in this country.
"Other defendants provided their addresses or other safe houses for the packages to be delivered to knowing that the cocaine was going to be smuggled.
"Once they arrived in this country they were to be collected by Ram or Nathan Salas."
Nathan Salas, 28, of Innes Road, Horsham, Fabio de Palma, 30, of Albany Road, West Green, Crawley, Lubhaia Ram, 43, of Smallfield, Surrey and Oscar Salas, 54, of Falmouth, Cornwall, deny conspiracy to smuggle cocaine.
Lawrence Russell, 49, of Maidenbower Place, Crawley, Paul Casella, 44, of Capricorn Close, Bewbush, Crawley, Richard Casella, 43, of Lampsden Court, Copthorne Common, Crawley, and Trevor Bowden, 38, of no fixed address also deny conspiracy to smuggle cocaine.
The trial continues on Monday.