Man denies knowledge of £30m drugs racket

ONE of three men accused of smuggling £30 million of cannabis disguised as tractor parts into South Yorkshire has denied all knowledge of the allegations against him.

Christopher Hodgson, a 46-year-old businessman, is on trial at Sheffield Crown Court with his son Shaun, aged 20, and employee Justin Organ, 37.

They are accused of shipping several tonnes of cannabis skunk and resin from Holland to addresses around Doncaster.

Prosecutors claim the trio organised 20 shipments in 2008 disguised as spare parts for tractors and other machines, before the UK Border Agency discovered a wooden crate on a lorry in Hull containing 430kg of cannabis - with a street value of 1.9 million.

But when asked by his barrister Michael Goldwater if he had "any knowledge of large-scale importation of drugs", Christopher Hodgson - allegedly the ringleader of the smuggling operation - replied: "No".

Mr Hodgson told the court he had a bad accident in 2007 which led to one of his legs being amputated.

He also claimed he suffered further complications with depression and the break-up of his marriage.

He said he "gradually got back to work" at his haulage firm CK Hodgson.

Mr Hodgson told the court a trip to Holland in August 2008, where it is alleged he made contact with people connected with importation of drugs, was just an innocent "boozy weekend" designed to cheer him up.

He said: "It was Justin's idea. We flew to Amsterdam but could not find any hotel rooms so went to Rotterdam.

"I was feeling down and it was an idea to cheer me up."

Hodgson told the court the weekend away had just involved drinking.

He rejected prosecution claims that a number of calls were made on his mobile phone during the trip to Dutch contacts involved with drugs.

He added: "I just made calls to taxis and hotels."

Hodgson denied knowledge of a previous trip to the Netherlands booked in his name in June 2008 - which the prosecution accepts he did not go on.

And he said he "hadn't a clue" how to work a Skype internet phone he is accused of buying and using to contact people involved with the drugs.

The prosecution alleges Hodgson's mobile phone records showed he regularly called Dutch numbers.

Examination of the Skype phone, found in a car used by Hodgson, showed it "had been in regular contact with a number of Dutch telephones".

Hodgson said a number of people had access to the car, which was a company vehicle, and denied the Skype phone was his.

Christopher Hodgson, of St Hildas Road, Belle Vue, Doncaster, Shaun Hodgson, of High Street, Barnby Dun and Organ, of Marlowe Road, Barnby Dun, each deny conspiracy to import cannabis.

The trial continues.

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