THREE drug smugglers have been locked up for a total of 23 years after they imported £30 million of cannabis into South Yorkshire disguised as tractor parts.
Christopher Hodgson, aged 46, his son Shaun Hodgson, 20 and employee Justin Organ, 37, shipped “tonnes and tonnes” of cannabis skunk and resin from Holland to addresses around Doncaster in a “sophisticated and organised” scam.
Sheffield Crown Court heard the trio organised 20 shipments in 2008 disguised as spare parts for tractors and other machines. UK Border Agency officers discovered a crate on a lorry in Hull containing 430kg of cannabis worth £1.9 million.
The goods were labelled as sent from a company in Holland bound for Barnby Dun, Doncaster. Neither the company nor address existed.
Records from a phone seized from Christopher Hodgson’s home revealed several hundred calls made to Dutch numbers.
One text message had the registration of the lorry searched by customs officials.
After nearly three days of deliberations, jurors returned unanimous guilty verdicts, convicting the three smugglers of conspiracy to import cannabis between 2008 and 2009.
Judge Michael Murphy QC said: “If there has been a larger scale trafficking of cannabis in South Yorkshire then I can’t remember it. This was sophisticated and organised criminal activity.”
Judge Murphy said Christopher Hodgson, owner of haulage firm CK Hodgson, was the “leading light” in the smuggling operation, and was in regular contact with exporters in Holland.
“It’s absolutely despicable that you brought your son into all of this,” he added.
Organ was Hodgson’s “willing lieutenant”, the judge said, holding a trusted position in the conspiracy, while Shaun Hodgson assisted by “dabbling in the importation of cannabis.”
The three men denied any knowledge of deliveries from Holland.
Christopher Hodgson claimed a trip to the country in 2008, when he made contact with drug importers, was a “boozy weekend”.
His barrister Michael Goldwater said he’d had a leg amputated in 2007 after an accident and would have a “hard time” in prison.
Timothy Clark, defending Organ, said he played a “subordinate role” in the scam.
Gurdial Singh, for Shaun Hodgson, said: “He was at the bottom of the pecking order. He had a very limited role.”
But the Judge said: “Serious crime brings serious punishments. For the last five weeks you’ve attempted to pull the wool over the eyes of this jury.”
Christopher Hodgson, of St Hildas Road, Belle Vue, Doncaster, was jailed for 11 years.
Shaun Hodgson, of High Street, Barnby Dun, will serve three years in a young offender’s institution.
Organ, of Marlowe Road, Barnby Dun, was jailed for nine years.
Malcolm Bragg, assistant director for the Border Agency’s criminal and financial investigation team, said he wanted the convictions to act as a warning to potential drug smugglers.
“This was a significant seizure that reflects the robust controls we have in place at the UK border backed by dedicated criminal investigation teams who are vital in bringing these criminals to justice.
“Cannabis wrecks the lives not only of individual users but also their families and the wider community.
“The supply of the drug also fuels organised crime as this case shows.”