A man has been jailed for trying to smuggle £800,000 worth of cocaine into the UK by hiding it in his pet dog’s crate.
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Jorge Pablo Samano Galas, 43, was caught after arriving at Heathrow Airport on a flight from his native Mexico in May.
The alarm was raised by staff at the site’s Animal Aircare Reception Centre after they noticed the travel cage was “unusually heavy, oddly sized and smelt strongly of paint stripper” during a routine welfare check.
On closer examination, they found ten 1kg blocks of cocaine hidden inside a false base attached to the crate.
Samano Galas was then arrested when he came to collect the animal.
Staff at the reception centre were so taken with two-year-old Camila, described as an “unwitting accomplice” by investigators, that one of them has now become her new permanent owner.
Under questioning, Samano Galas initially told officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA) that he bought the canine from a rescue centre in Mexico a few weeks prior and had booked a holiday in the UK so that the pair could “bond”.
However investigators discovered it cost him more than £3,000 to ship the dog – but he had not booked a return journey.
Subsequent enquires exposed “multiple other inconsistencies” in his story, including evidence that he had repeatedly changed his travel dates and route to the UK.
Samano Galas eventually pleaded guilty to importing class A drugs and was sentenced on Friday to six years and four months in prison by a judge at Winchester Crown Court.
‘A friendly, affectionate girl’
NCA senior manager Darren Barr described the incident as “a cynical attempt to bring hundreds of thousands of pounds of class A drugs into the UK”.
He added: “Cocaine smugglers like Samano Galas play a crucial role in the business model of international organised crime groups, and their activities perpetuate violence and intimidation throughout the UK.
“While Samano Galas now faces prison, the story will have a happier ending for his unwitting accomplice Camila, who will spend the rest of her life in a happy home.”
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Jake Holliday, head of animal welfare at Heathrow, said: “We decided to foster Camila while the NCA investigation was ongoing to ensure that she was given the love she deserved.
“It quickly became apparent that she was a friendly, affectionate girl who thrived off meeting new people.
“Now, after many months, it’s been confirmed that Camila can go home with one of our animal welfare officers, who she adores.
“We will miss her dearly – not least because her office antics kept us in hysterics – but we are so glad she will be looked after by someone who has been there with her since she first arrived.”