Cocaine smuggler jailed for 17 years

A HITCHIN garage owner caught smuggling drugs worth more than £3m has been jailed for 17 years. Mark Bunton was stopped by officers from HM Revenue & Customs at Dover on June 14 last year. He was driving a Vauxhall Astra when he arrived on the ferry and c

A HITCHIN garage owner caught smuggling drugs worth more than £3m has been jailed for 17 years.

Mark Bunton was stopped by officers from HM Revenue & Customs at Dover on June 14 last year.

He was driving a Vauxhall Astra when he arrived on the ferry and claimed that he had been to France to look for a property.

As Bunton's car was searched officers removed the rear interior trim panels and discovered numerous packages behind the soundproofing within each rear quarter panel.

A field test was carried out on the powder in one of the packages which reacted positive to cocaine. In total, officers recovered approximately 32 kilograms of cocaine from the rear quarter panels of the car.

The court heard that Bunton was a mechanic by trade and owned a garage in Hitchin, which carried out MOT and servicing work on vehicles. In addition to the drugs, officers found £6,000 in cash which was seized.

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Bunton, 52, of Caxton Road, Hoddesdon was found guilty at Canterbury Crown Court in April and remanded in custody. He was sentenced on Tuesday. Confiscation proceedings to strip him of assets illegally derived from the proceeds of his crime are being considered.

Tom Hunnisett, HMRC's acting head of criminal investigation for the South East, said: "The sentence handed down by the court should act as a deterrent to those involved in drug trafficking and clearly shows that crime doesn't pay."

A spokesman for HMRC said the Hitchin garage owned by Bunton had now been sold.

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