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Suspected 17yo Cocaine Smuggler Busted, Jamaica

HM Revenue & Customs (UK)

Suspected cocaine smuggler aged 17 arrested in Jamaica

A Middlesborough woman, along with her partner and a 17 year-old girl are in the custody of the Jamaican authorities, having been arrested at Sangster International Airport, Montego Bay on Sunday 8 June suspected of attempting to smuggle drugs.

The three were detected under the Operation Airbridge initiative after the two women were caught attempting to smuggle cocaine internally. All three are also suspected of swallowing packages of cocaine. They were due to board a flight to Manchester.

Operation Airbridge is a project originally set up by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and is now run by the UK Border Agency in partnership with the Jamaican authorities to catch drug smugglers using the Caribbean island as a gateway to the UK and other European countries.

Tony Walker, Director of Border Force Intelligence and National Operations, UK Border Agency, said:

"The use of such young people in smuggling drugs demonstrates the ruthless nature of those criminal gangs involved in the illegal narcotics trade and the misery they cause. The dedication of UK and Jamaican drug detection officers has prevented deadly Class A drugs from entering the UK. "Operation Airbridge has proved to be a great success in preventing harmful drugs hitting the streets of the UK and other European countries. Airbridge powerfully demonstrates the importance of working closely with other global partners such as Jamaica. This collaboration is helping to protect both countries from the violence and corruption that always accompanies the trade in illegal drugs."


1. Operation Airbridge is a joint UK/Jamaican initiative to catch drugs couriers with internal concealments of Class A drugs before they board planes from Jamaica. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) officers, and now UK Border Agency officers, have given technical and operational expertise to the Jamaican authorities. This includes training in the use of Foreign and Commonwealth Office funded scanning equipment.

2. Operation Airbridge - launched on 1 June 2002 - was agreed between the British and Jamaican governments to co-operate on tackling the large and increasing number of swallowers smuggling cocaine between Jamaica and the UK. In the time Operation Airbridge has been running the number of drugs swallowers detected at UK airports from Jamaica has fallen from approximately 1000 per year to 5 during the last 12 months. The reduction in harm to UK communities derives a monetary benefit to the UK taxpayer of around £130m per annum at a cost of £250,000 for the Airbridge Operation.

3. The air courier route from Jamaica, either directly to the UK or in transit through other EU airports, is identified as a specific threat.

Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office

Client ref Ref:NAT 27/08
COI ref 162012P


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