A corrupt Border Force officer who plotted to help criminals smuggle guns and drugs worth £3.5m into the UK is facing years behind bars.
Simon Pellett, 37, planned to bring the deadly cargo including firearms, silencers and a magazine for a submachine gun back through the Channel Tunnel, Isleworth Crown Court heard today.
But French police swooped on Pellet’s government Transit van in Calais, and recovered the contraband, which also included 34kg of cocaine valued at £2.8m and 6kg of heroin valued at £600,000.
Corrupt Corder Force agent Simon Pellet, 37, of Elmsvale Road, Dover, was convicted of smuggling drugs and guns and of misconduct in a public office
David Baker, 55, of Lions Close, Lewisham (L) and Alex Howard, 35, of Sittingbourne, Kent (R) were surveilled alongside Pellet. All three were convicted of importing drugs, Pellet and Baker were also convicted of gun running
Pellett, along with David Baker, 55, and Alex Howard, 35, were under surveillance by National Crime Agency (NCA) investigators in the lead up to their arrests last October.
All three were convicted by a jury of importing cocaine and heroin after a month-long trial at Isleworth Crown Court. Pellett and Baker were convicted of importing firearms but Howard was cleared of that charge.
Pellett was also convicted of misconduct in public office for acting as he did while an employee of UK Border Force.
Judge Robin Johnson remanded them in custody ahead of sentencing on Friday.
Richard Jory, QC, prosecuting, said the case involved smuggling drugs, guns, bullets, silencers, and magazines into the UK and called Pellet an ‘an open door for smuggling high value drugs into the country’.
Pellet and Howard had argued they did not know what cargo they were helping to smuggle, but detectives proved that to be a lie.
Eight automatic pistols, two revolvers, three silencers and ammunition including a magazine for a Skorpion sub-machine gun were seized by police
Pistols and silencers were among the firearms recovered by the cross-border investigation
Around 40kg of drugs were seized by the French police in Pellet’s van in France
The court heard how NCA investigators had tailed a silver Mercedes which led Pellett, wearing his black Border Force uniform, to the Valiant Sailor pub in Dover on September 29, 2017.
The men discussed how to evade security checks and bring the goods across the Channel as police listened in on their conversations.
Mr Jory said: ‘Over a period of time there are observations, that is covert surveillance of individuals, including these individuals.
‘These are observations, recorded observations, that were carried out at certain locations at the Valiant Sailor public house in Dover.’
He said Baker arrived on the continent in his VW Passat on October 5 and booked a hotel room at the luxurious Leonardo Hotel in Bruges, Belgium where he stayed the night.
Howard meanwhile met an associate at a car park of the Dover Castle Inn in Faversham, Kent, before moving inside where he was handed some cash.
Howard then drove to Bruges in his VW Golf to meet Baker at the hotel in the early hours of 6 October 2017.
On the morning of October 6 Pellett was caught on CCTV getting into a white UK Border Force Transit van at 6:30am before travelling to France.
National Crime Agency detectives had Howard (pictured) Pellet and Baker under surveillance
During a series of phone calls a meeting point was agreed near Calais where the guns and drugs were to be handed over by members of a European crime network, the court heard.
But Pellett, Baker and Howard were arrested by French police after three heavy bags were loaded into Pellet’s unmarked Border Agency van by Baker shortly after 11am on October 6.
Inside the bags were 6kg of heroin, 34 kg of cocaine, eight automatic pistols, two revolvers, three silencers and ammunition including a magazine for a Skorpion sub-machine gun.
Pellett, of Elmsvale Road, Dover, Baker, of Lions Close, Lewisham, and Howard, of Station Road, Sittingbourne, Kent, all denied importing cocaine, heroin, and guns.
Pellet alone denied a charge of misconduct in public office.
Speaking after French police arrested the men last year Dave Hucker, head of the NCA’s Anti-Corruption Unit, said: ‘This operation has brought together law enforcement from both sides of the Channel.
‘We believe we have prevented the importation of a significant quantity of class A drugs and firearms to the UK.
Kate Mulholland, of the CPS, said: ‘Our prosecution was able to prove that each of these men must have known they were smuggling firearms and drugs into the UK.
‘This was a sophisticated operation using a UKBA employee who was supposed to be protecting the UK from these offences.
‘Their defence that they did not know the real contents of the package was clearly not credible, and was disproved by surveillance, phone evidence, and the amount of drugs and weapons involved.’