Posted on June 20, 2005

Drug Smuggling Customs Man Jailed

BBC News, June 17, 2005

A Customs officer has been jailed for 15 years for using his position to help smuggle millions of pounds of cocaine into Britain through Gatwick Airport.

Richard Riley, 53, of Dulwich, south-east London, used £125,000 in pay-offs to fund a lavish lifestyle, Southwark Crown Court heard.

He passed on confidential information, arranged drug runs from the Caribbean and ushered couriers through Customs.

Riley admitted conspiracy to smuggle drugs and money laundering.

His wife Marjorie, 51, who helped launder the money, has also admitted her part in the operation and was given 180 hours community service.

‘Wholesale operation’

The Rileys enjoyed a life of luxury holidays in Egypt and Barbados and spent £40,000 on a plot of land on an island where they hoped to build a home.

Prosecutor Oliver Sells QC said having Riley on side meant the smuggling became a “wholesale operation rather than one of small-scale swallowers and the like”.

Couriers were so confident they did not even bother to hide the cocaine inside clothes, but instead packed the suitcases “to the brim”.

On 1 July 2004 he was videoed guiding two smugglers, Stephen Abrahamson, 29, and Kelly Little, 24, through the “green channel” at Gatwick.

The suitcases they were carrying had the zips glued shut and contained 31.6kg of cocaine, with an estimated value of £2.4m.

Mr Sells said the gang had smuggled “very substantial quantities” of cocaine into Britain and Riley was “absolutely central” to the operation.

Passing sentence, Judge Anthony Pitts told him: “You received rivers of cash as a reward for your criminality and betrayal.

“You have lost your job, you have lost your home, you have lost the respect of others and, I suspect, your own self respect as well.”

Others also appearing in court were couriers Abrahamson and Little, from Ponders End, Middlesex who received nine-and-a-half years and seven-and-a-half years respectively; Harline Young, 41, of Northolt, Middlesex was sentenced to 11-and-a-half years; Steven Dixon, 35, of Dollis Hill, London, to 10-and-a-half years; and Peter Crosdale, 46, from Edgware, London, to 15 years.

They variously admit three counts of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine, one charge of smuggling and two of money laundering.