Miracle Fish Survive Cocaine Trafficking Plot

Two men who attempted to traffic large amounts of cocaine into the UK, hidden in consignments of live tropical fish, have been jailed for a total of 22 years.

Olaf Urlik and Norbert Jarzabek, both originally from Poland, first practised and then attempted to smuggle 17kg of high purity cocaine, worth an estimated £1.6 million at wholesale, from Colombia into the UK.

The drug was dissolved in bags of fluid and stored inside larger bags with the live fish. More than 16,000 fish died, and 34 survivors are currently recovering in ZSL London Zoo.

The 2 men carried out a trial run in April 2011. Jarzabek and a friend from Strelley, Nottingham, collected the consignment at Heathrow and took the fish to a lock up garage in Islington in London where they were abandoned.

Confident of success following their rehearsal, Urlik and Jarzabek then plotted the shipment which would contain cocaine, unaware that investigators from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) were watching.

The shipment of 25 double boxes of tropical fish arrived on 9 July 2011 labelled "Live Tropical Fish, Handle With Extreme Care." SOCA and UKBA officers scanned the boxes and found 10 boxes containing bags of dissolved cocaine.

Two days passed before Jarzabek and another man arrived at Heathrow to collect the consignment. They loaded the fish into a van and took them to a property in Glade Avenue, Nottingham, which Jarzabek had rented the month before. Urlik flew in from Amsterdam, arriving at the flat around 2am. As they unpacked the boxes the men commented that they didn't expect the fish to be as 'lively' considering they weren't collected on time.

At 3.30am, officers moved in and arrested the men at the scene. The fish had limited oxygen for at least 96 hours and many were dead or lay dying in a colander. SOCA contacted experts at London Zoo to look after the 41 fish still alive. A further 7 died, and the 34 which survived will remain in the aquarium at the Zoo.

Olaf Urlik and Norbert Jarzabek, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine on 5 January 2012. Jailing the pair to 11 years each, His honour, judge Head, sitting at Nottingham crown court said: "This was a highly sophisticated operation. Both these men had a substantial awareness of what they were doing, each had a leading role and both set to gain substantially."

The investigation was in partnership with the UK Border Agency and Nottinghamshire police.

Gerry Smyth, from SOCA commented: "These 2 were exceptionally callous. They used living creatures as a test run and then effectively as packaging for their drugs, seeing only the profits they would make. SOCA is grateful to the expert teams at ZSL London Zoo who helped us out in this very unusual case.

"Partnerships at a national and international level are vital if we are to tackle drug trafficking. Drugs cause misery for families and communities. These criminals are now facing lengthy jail terms and they've been denied their profits."


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