Two British brothers have appeared in court over an alleged plot to smuggle £50million worth of cocaine into Britain in a private jet.
Bricklayers Martin, 48, and Stephen Neil, 53, from Poole in Dorset, were charged alongside Italian Alessandro Iembo, 28, of Bournemouth, and Spanish nationals Victor Franco-Lorenzo, 40, and Jose Ramon Miguelez-Botas, 55.
They appeared in court after 15 suitcases containing a total of £50million of cocaine were found on a plane which landed in Farnborough Airport, Hampshire yesterday.
A spokesman for the firm which supplied the plane said it had been released by the authorities, as had the crew.
Martin Neil is one of five men charged with cocaine smuggling after yesterday’s drugs bust on a private jet flying into Farnborough Airport
Italian Alessandro Iembo (left), from Bournemouth, and Spanish 40-year-old Victor Franco Lorenzo (right) are among the five men charged with drug smuggling
A suitcase containing packages of cocaine was found in a plane arriving from Colombia
The discovery is believed to have been one of the largest recent seizures of its kind.
All five appeared at Uxbridge Magistrates Court this morning, where district judge Deborah Wright refused the brothers’ bail applications on the grounds that there was a risk that they would fail to surrender.
The family of hair salon owner Jose Ramon Miguelez-Botas said he was due to return to Spain yesterday after telling relatives he was going to the UK for a short holiday.
The father-of-one was born in Leon, northern Spain, but has spent most of his adult life in Valladolid.
The Border Force said that the drug was hidden in 15 suitcases that were found on board
Border Force officers found the drugs after searching this aircraft at Farnborough Airport
The Bombardier Global Express jet used can take 13 passengers, or sleep six, and boasts an entertainment system with six TVs.
The 5,200-miles private jet flight is estimated to have cost at least £100,000.
The plane belonged to an Austrian private jet company Tyrolean Jet Services and a Bombardier Global Express plane they own was seen leaving Farnborough yesterday.
The company’s website states: ‘Take-offs at short notice, individually selected 1st class catering providing all options of religious or dietary needs, and last minute changes in destination or the number of passengers are no major problems.’
This is the interior of the plane understood to have been used by the alleged drug smugglers
The luxurious private jet offers in-flight entertainment and catering for those hiring it
Border Force Deputy Chief Operating Officer Mike Stepney said: ‘After meeting the flight and questioning those on board, officers became suspicious and searched the aircraft and their luggage.
‘When opened, each case was found to contain between 34 to 37 tape wrapped packages weighing approximately one kilo each.
‘One of these was pierced and a white powder exposed which tested positive for cocaine.’
Three properties in Bournemouth, Dorset, were also searched by the National Crime Agency (NCA) as part of the investigation, and computers and phones taken away for examination.
NCA operations manager Siobhan Micklethwaite said: ‘This is a major seizure of cocaine, one of the largest flown into the UK by plane in many years, and this seizure by Border Force represents a major blow to organised crime.
‘We estimate that once cut and sold on the streets in the UK it would have had a potential value in excess of £50 million.’
The Bombardier plane believed to have been used can seat 13 passengers and sleeps six
The aircraft crew were questioned before being released without charge.
They and the five charged men are believed to have been the only ones on the plane.
Farnborough Airport was used in the filming of 2008 Bond film Quantum of Solace, in scenes featuring the private jet of villain Dominic Greene, played by Mathieu Amalric.
The airport, which is about 25 miles south east of London, is used for business and private flights only, and sees around 130 take-offs and landings a day.
Prison van is pictured leaving Uxbridge Magistrates Court containing the suspects
The Neil brothers – both bricklayers – told the court they lived here in Southbourne, Dorset
Pictured: Another address in Poole, Dorset linked to cocaine smuggling suspect Martin Neil
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