Two Come Dine With Me winners were part of a gang planning to smuggle 58kg of cannabis from the USA by posing as customs officers.

Police officers were shot during a raid to arrest one of the suspects after detectives chased a lead from an airport luggage theft.

Restaurant owners Nicholas Panayiotou and Eleanar Attard wore fake customs officers uniforms to take the drugs from two couriers who had flown from Los Angeles on January 11, 2023.

The Argus: The taxi rank at Heathrow Terminal 3The taxi rank at Heathrow Terminal 3 (Image: Google)

But the two women who arrived from Los Angeles reported having their luggage and passports stolen outside Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport while waiting in a taxi.

Police linked the theft to a car which was driven to a hotel and then to restaurant A Touch of Greek in Chingford, East London, owned by Panayiotou and Attard. They appeared on a professional series of Come Dine With Me in July 2022 at the restaurant, and won the competition.

The Argus: Touch of Greek in ChingfordTouch of Greek in Chingford (Image: Google)

Just two days after the theft, officers went to their home in Broxbourne, London, where they arrested Attard along with her husband.

When officers examined Panayiotou's phone, they found evidence that the theft was part of a wider conspiracy to import and then steal a large amount of cannabis.

A WhatsApp group chat contained details of a plan to smuggle 58kg of cannabis into the UK from the USA.

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Panayiotou, aged 43, and his wife, 45, posed as customs officers pretending to seize the suitcases and passports from the women soon after they arrived into the UK.

Three videos found on his phone showed large quantities of cannabis recorded at the restaurant the day after the theft.

There were three unknown people on the WhatsApp group but detectives soon identified Horsham man Luke Wileman, as well as Constantinos Zavros and Koby Kaik.

The Argus: Constantinos ZavrosConstantinos Zavros (Image: Metropolitan Police)

Zavros was identified as being connected to those supplying the drugs in the US and officers found evidence he also travelled to the US. 

Wileman, of Faygate Lane in Horsham advised the gang on how to sell the drugs - and suggested suitable clothing for Panayiotou and Attard to pose as customs officers.

He was arrested in July 2023.

The Metropolitan Police's Territorial Support Group raided Haik's home in Southgate on April 5 2023. He was stood at the top of the stairs armed with a baseball bat and fired two shots from a gun at the officers, who were using shields and helmets when entering the property.

Haik was arrested and the weapon was sent for analysis which confirmed it was an imitation containing blank rounds.

Zavros and Haik were convicted of conspiracy to import cannabis, supply cannabis and conspiracy to steal. Haik was also convicted of possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. They were sentenced to six years and 11 months and seven years respectively.

The Argus: A gun seized by policeA gun seized by police (Image: Metropolitan Police)

Wileman, 32, was convicted alongside Panayioutou for conspiracy to supply cannabis and conspiracy to steal. Panayioutou was sentenced to four years and one month.

Wileman is due to be sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court on May 9.

Attard was charged with the theft of suitcases and passports. She was sentenced to eight months' imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work and attend a 10-day rehabilitation activity.