Dutch gang smuggled cocaine and heroin into UK using fake ambulances

Audacious Dutch smugglers may have sneaked up to £1.6bn (€2.3bn) worth of cocaine and heroin into the UK using “a fleet” of fake ambulances, a court heard.

Dutch gang smuggled cocaine and heroin into UK using fake ambulances

Leonardus Bijlsma and Dennis Vogelaar were allegedly part of a “lucrative criminal conspiracy” to sneak huge hauls of drugs into the country, according to prosecutors.

A Birmingham Crown Court jury was told that the operation, fronted by a bogus ambulance company in Holland, may have seen up to £420m in “top-quality” class A drugs reach the UK, via the Channel’s ferry ports.

When the high-purity drug packets were cut down to individual street-value wraps, the total cash value could increase four-fold, prosecutor Robert Davies said.

“The prosecution suggest this was a top-level, audacious, and, up to the point of interception and the arrests, a successful and lucrative criminal conspiracy,” he added.

Davies said the conspiracy was uncovered when officers of the National Crime Agency (NCA) swooped on one of the ambulances after tracking it to Smethwick in the West Midlands, on June 16.

When police arrived they arrested Bijlsma, described in court by Davies as the organised crime operation’s “right-hand man”, and “ambulance driver” Vogelaar.

The gang were equipped with bogus paramedic uniforms and a letter purporting to be from a Dutch patient being taken to a London hospital for treatment.

In separate smuggling runs, the Crown also alleged the conspirators may have employed “fake patients”.

When the NCA officers swooped in Smethwick, two other men; Olof Schoon, aged 38, and Richard Engelsbel, 51,were also detained, jurors heard.

Davies explained the reason those men did not appear in the dock alongside Bijlsma and Vogelaar, both of Amsterdam, was because they have already admitted conspiracy to import class A drugs.

Schoon, who was director of Dutch-based Schoon Ambulance Company, was described by prosecutors as “the central player”.

Investigations revealed that the ambulance was “rammed” to the roof with more than £38m of cocaine and heroin.

Inside the back of the ambulance, concealed behind metal-riveted panels in six “hides”, were neatly stacked, colour-coded packets of class A drugs including 193kg of cocaine with a street value of over £30m.

The trial continues.

More in this section

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox