Amsterdam trip 'was an innocent boozy weekend'

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

Businessman Christopher Hodgson, aged 46, is on trial at Sheffield Crown Court with his son Shaun, aged 20, and employee Justin Organ, 37, who are all accused of shipping cannabis from Holland to Doncaster.

Prosecutors claim they organised 20 shipments disguised as spare parts before the UK Border Agency discovered a crate on a lorry in Hull containing 430kg of cannabis, with a street value of 1.9m.

Asked by his barrister Michael Goldwater if he knew of large-scale importation of drugs, Christopher Hodgson - allegedly the ringleader of the smuggling operation - replied: "No".

Mr Hodgson said he had a bad accident in 2007 which led to one of his legs being amputated. He suffered further complications with depression and the break-up of his marriage, but gradually got back to work at his haulage firm CK Hodgson.

He 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".

He said: "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." He said the trip just involved drinking, denying claims calls were made on his phone during the trip to 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. He said he "hadn't a clue" how to work a Skype internet phone he is accused of using to contact people involved with drugs.

The prosecution alleges Hodgson's mobile phone records showed he regularly called Dutch numbers, and examination of the Skype phone, found in a car he used, showed it "had been in regular contact with a number of Dutch telephones".

Hodgson said a number of people had access to the car, 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.