A Wigan man has been jailed for his role in a plot to fly in cocaine and heroin from Europe into an Essex aerodrome.
Wayne Coates had travelled to Clacton Airport to collect a delivery of class A drugs from pilot Philip Molyneux, a court heard.
But the plane never arrived on the morning on October 31, 2012, after Molyneux was arrested by French customs and police in Abbeville before he could take off.
Authorities found 12kg of cocaine and 1kg of heroin in a bag in his plane – drugs which if cut and sold in the UK would have had a potential street value of more than £1.5m.
French police had been alerted after British officials spotted suspicious activity involving the aircraft, which was rented from a firm in Blackpool.
Following his arrest French authorities found calls and messages on Molyneux’s phone from numbers which were later linked by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) to Coates, 49, of Conway Road, Ashton, and Jamie Sharples, from Bolton. One from Coates said “Ring me Phil, what the **** going on?”, while another from Sharples stated “Get bk to me asap”.
Molyneux, 51, originally from Southport, was jailed for five years in France for drugs offences. After his trial the French passed evidence regarding his contacts with individuals in the UK to the NCA.
Investigators were able to link Coates and Sharples, 30, to the plot through mobile phones and rental vehicles which were used to travel between the North West and Clacton.
Both men had also made trips to Amsterdam together. They were arrested in October 2015 and eventually pleaded guilty to conspiring to import class A drugs.
At Bolton Crown Court sentenced Sharples to eight years in prison and Coates got six years in jail for both the heroin and cocaine smuggling to run concurrently.
Jon Hughes, from the NCA’s North West Border Investigation team, said: “This has been a long and complicated investigation, but the result is that these two men are behind bars. They planned to use Philip Molyneux’s skills as a pilot to evade border controls, and we were able to provide evidence that the same group was likely to have been involved in previous drug runs.”