Gang used furniture removal company to import £135m worth of drugs: Moment ringleader is arrested over cocaine, heroin and ketamine empire after he boasted of his luxury lifestyle online – including holidays to Dubai and road trips in a Ferrari
- Jonathan Arnold presented himself as an owner of a small furniture moving firm
- He was actually a drug gang kingpin importing cocaine, heroin and ketamine
A criminal gang which imported £135million worth of drugs into the UK through the disguise of a furniture removal company has been convicted.
Ringleader Jonathan Arnold, of Sutton Coldfield, boasted of his wealth online by posting photos of holidays to Dubai and road trips in a Ferrari.
He gave the impression that he was a legitimate businessman with a small furniture moving firm that had a turnover of £50,000 a month.
However he actually funded his lavish lifestyle by smuggling nearly two tonnes of cocaine, heroin and ketamine into the UK.
The gang would use dummy loads of furniture to hide packages of drugs in lorries and vans, some of which had hidden compartments to conceal the shipments.
Arnold admitted four charges of conspiracy to import and supply drugs.
The gang’s downfall began in January 2022, when one of their couriers, who cannot be named for legal reasons, made a drug run to Europe in a Real Estate Removals van.
But his van was searched by French Customs’ officers who found 63 blocks of cocaine weighing 71kg along with 99 bags of ketamine weighing 101kg. The drugs had a UK wholesale value of £2,561,900.
The biggest single seizure came in April last year, when the gang tried to bring 1,477kg of cocaine with a street value of around £118m into Portsmouth.
The drugs, hidden among bananas, were seized by Dutch police officers on a ship which had travelled from Colombia to Vlissingen in the Netherlands.
The ship was allowed to continue its journey into Portsmouth, after the drugs had been removed.
In June last year, another of the gang’s drivers – Connor Fletcher – travelled to a town near Amsterdam for an overnight trip and returned with 60kg of cocaine hidden in two secret compartments built into the floor of the lorry.
By this point, a police investigation had linked him to the gang and so Border Force were asked to intercept him on his return and he was arrested.
Det Ch Supt Jenny Skyrme, head of the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit, said: ‘We can’t underestimate the scale and significance of this criminal organisation.
‘This is the biggest drugs case that we have ever dealt with as an organisation.
‘The gang was operating at the highest levels of criminality, bringing in industrial quantities of drugs to sell on the streets of the West Midlands and beyond.
‘As the head of the crime group, Jonathan Arnold enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, driving luxury cars and enjoying trips to Dubai.
‘He gave the impression that he was a legitimate businessman with a small firm which moved furniture and had a turnover of £50,000 a month.
‘The reality was that he was arranging tens of millions of pounds worth of drugs to be imported into the UK from Europe and South America, which would have gone on to cause untold misery and significant harm to communities.’
James Jenkins, 25; Humayan Sadiq, 43; and Connor Fletcher, 25, all from the West Midlands, were found guilty for their roles in the drugs ring following a trial at Birmingham Crown Court.
Jenkins assisted Arnold in helping to arrange drivers and acted as a supervisor for the operation, while Fletcher was employed as a driver, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.