A lorry driver who smuggled £1.4 million worth of cannabis into Cirencester has avoided jail.
John Lader, 51, of Voorschoten in the Netherlands, was given a sixteen month jail term suspended for two years at Gloucester Crown Court on March 11. The court heard that the drug was hidden by boxes of Dutch flowers.
Judge Timothy Rose was told that the prosecution accepted Lader’s explanation that he believed he was smuggling tobacco and not the class B drug.
Lader pleaded guilty to four counts of attempting to fraudulently evade duty on tobacco products between October 6 and October 30 last year.
Police saw him loading boxes from his HGV into a waiting Fiat Doblo van on October 29 in a car park by the junction of the A417 and Burford Road in Cirencester.
When they stopped him and searched the boxes they found a ‘significant quantity of vacuum packed cannabis’ in each of them, prosecutor Hannah Squire said.
There were flowers in the boxes to make it look innocent at a cursory glance. The court heard that Lader ran a flower importation business.
“There was absolutely no smell of cannabis,” Ms Squire said. “They had been well and truly vacuum packed.”
She said there were four different ‘consignments’ of boxes on board, numbered accordingly.
“He had four separate deliveries to make on that day,” the prosecutor said.
The man he met in Cirencester, Mohammed Abdulrehman, 25, of Golbourne Ave, Manchester pleaded guilty to possessing cannabis with intent to supply and attempting to possess cannabis with intent to supply, both on October 29.
He will be sentenced at a later date.
Ms Squire said Abdulrehman’s ‘batch was 47 kilos of cannabis’.
In total Lader was found to have 141 kilos of cannabis, with a wholesale value of £705,000 but a street value of £1.4 million.
Lader told the police he was paid £1,000 per trip.
Sentencing Lader, the judge said: “You were hardly going to be made rich for the rest of your life.”