A lorry driver from Northern Ireland told Customs officers who found cannabis worth almost £1m in the back of his truck that be believed he was transporting out of date oven chips for disposal, a court has heard.
Nigel Donnelly (45) denies knowingly importing the bags of herbal cannabis through Dover two years ago.
When confronted by officers, the driver said: “The b******s have set me up. I only made the trip so I could buy a bike for my lad’s birthday.”
William Hughes, prosecuting, said the cannabis was found when Customs officers at Dover pulled the lorry over and subjected it to a scan.
He told Maidstone Crown Court: “The drugs were quite a valuable commodity. X-rays taken of the lorry showed a dark area which indicated there was a concealment in the rear.”
During questioning Donnelly, of Old Rectory Park, Cookstown, told officers he was approached to do a one off delivery in February 2010.
He was to drive to Holland with a load of frozen chips for disposal and another load of chips would be put in its place. The load, worth £949,000, was destined for Dublin.
Donnelly drove his own vehicle to Chafford Hundred, Essex. where he was given the truck with the chips on board. He drove to Holland via Calais and was provided documents which were bogus.
Mr Hughes said: “The bogus load was a cover for the drug smuggling attempt. When questioned Mr Donnelly looked visibly shocked that drugs had been found in the trailer. He said he knew nothing about the cannabis.”
Donnelly told the investigation team he arrived in the Amsterdam area and slept in a lay-by. While he was asleep a man banged on his window and spoke to him in pidgin English. He was driving a black Skoda and he told Donnelly to follow him to an industrial estate where the lorry was loaded.
Donnelly told investigators he didn’t see the loading. He was supposed to get £800 for making the trip.
The Tyrone man boarded a Sea France ferry for Dover where he was picked up.
Although Donnelly claimed he hadn’t worked since Christmas 2009, checks with Dover ferry companies revealed he had made at least three cross-Channel trips during the previous week.
The case continues.