A Dutch pilot suspected of flying high-purity cocaine worth nearly €3 million into the UK was arrested while sitting on a hotel toilet with the trousers round his ankles, a court was told yesterday.
Prosecutors claim John Buwalda used a light aircraft to smuggle the drugs into Britain by landing in a field close to a small regional airport in Kent. The 49-year-old was detained while on the lavatory after allegedly bringing the cocaine into Britain from Hilversum in his home country, the Old Bailey in London heard on Monday.
Jan Polak, Buwalda’s alleged accomplice, was found to be carrying 22kg of cocaine when he was arrested outside the Holiday Inn near Rochester Airport in June. Tests carried out on the drugs later revealed they were 80% pure.
The pair were held after officers from the Metropolitan Police Service’s Organised Crime Partnership (OCP) and the National Crime Agency (NCA) saw Buwalda’s plane land in a field in Chatham. Both men denied plotting to smuggle the drugs into the county at a preliminary hearing at the beginning of October.
Buwalda is accused of hiding the cocaine in metal boxes which were fitted to his aircraft. The Dutchman claimed these boxes were in fact wing weights used to make sure his plane was not buffeted by gusts of wind while it was on the ground. He told police he detached the boxes and took them into the hotel he was staying in using a trolley to “look the part of a pilot”.
Prosecutor Ailsa Williamson told the court: “They were not wing weights and if they were we would expect them to be attached to the wing and not taken into the hotel.
“The prosecution say the reason he was dragging that trolley into the hotel was because he was bringing the drugs in to hand over to Polak.”
Buwalda claimed he worked for the Chinese Europe Medical Post Grad Academy and was on his way to “network” at the University of Greenwich when he was arrested, despite admitting not having contacted the university or setting up any meetings before leaving the Netherlands for the UK in his plane.
The pair’s trial, which began on 7 December, comes after three men were jailed for a total of 52 years at Croydon Crown Court in September after they were caught attempting to smuggle drugs worth an estimated £12 million into the UK via Kent using a helicopter last April.
Dutch pilot Niels Wartenbergh, passenger Ricardo Vorstenbosch and courier Joseph Peel were sentenced in September after police tracked their hired chopper from Belgium. They were found to be in possession of 60kg of heroin and 43kg of cocaine.