31/07/2003

Airline steward and accomplice convicted of drug smuggling

A British Airways (BA) steward and his accomplice have been found guilty of attempted drug smuggling at Croydon Crown Court.

Stephen Akpabio-Klementowski (38), of Hounslow, Middlesex, was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment and Richard Anthony Jarrett (48), a self-employed decorator of Wembley, Middlesex, was sentenced to 17 years for their part in a plot to smuggle over six kilos of cocaine worth £360 000 into the UK. Both were given a five-year travel restriction order once they are released.

Customs investigator, Duncan Honeyman said: "A greater level of trust is given to and expected from aircrew, so the sentences given reflect the betrayal of this trust. HM Customs and Excise are committed to protecting our society and this case sends a strong message to all those engaged in drug trafficking, that we will not tolerate their criminal activities."

On June 13 2002, Akpabio-Klementowski arrived at Gatwick Airport having stewarded on a flight from Kingston, Jamaica. When he was stopped by Customs, he said that the blue Samsonite suitcase he was carrying was not his – despite its having a BA Crew identity label on it.

On opening the case, the Customs officers found a white pillowcase containing six slabs of tape wrapped packages of cocaine.

On June 15 2002, Jarrett was arrested on his arrival at Gatwick Airport from Jamaica.

He denied being involved in drug smuggling or of knowing Akpabio-Klementowski during interview. Whilst both Jarrett and Akpabio-Klementowski claimed not to know each other, the pair had each other's phone number and had called one another frequently. They had also stayed in the same hotels, at the same time in the Caribbean and South America, on a number of occasions over the previous two years.

Their trial began at Croydon Crown Court on April 28 and they were found guilty on June 6.

A Customs spokesperson said: "British Airways co-operated fully with Customs during the investigation and are continuing to help on a range of drug-related initiatives in the Caribbean."

(GMcG)

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