London court jails Arik Air hostess for smuggling N62million worth of cocaine

Chinwendu Ogbonnaya

An Arik Air stewardess caught last December while attempting to smuggle a £250,000 (about N62.018million) worth of cocaine into the United Kingdom was Thursday slammed a five and a half year jail term for the offence.

An Isleworth Crown Court judge in West London said Chinwendu Ogbonnaya, 29, would, in addition, be facing deportation at the end of her sentence.

Ms Ogbonnaya was caught on December 18, 2011 while on duty as a member of the crew on an Arik Air flight from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos enroute Heathrow Airport, London.

She was apprehended on arrival at Terminal 4 during a routine search conducted by UK Border Agency officers at the Heathrow airport crew clearance facility when it discovered that her luggage contained a rucksack with a false back.

Curious about the finding, further searches by the officers were to reveal that packages of suspicious substances were hidden behind the false back.

The UK Border Agency, which is responsible for securing the border and controlling migration in the UK, manages border control for the UK, enforcing immigration and customs regulations, including prevention of drugs, weapons, terrorists, criminals and would-be illegal immigrants reaching the United Kingdom.

Forensic tests later showed that the packages contained approximately two kilogrammes of high purity Grade A cocaine, which would attract a UK open market value of about £250,000.

Ms Ogbonnaya, who claimed she was given the bag by an unnamed friend, said she was not aware it contained drugs.

However, on further interrogation, she was to later own up and plead guilty for attempting to illegally import a class A drug to London, which made the judge at Isleworth Crown Court in West London to show leniency, sentencing her to five and a half years in prison.

An assistant director of the UK Border Agency’s Criminal and Financial Investigation Team, Pete Avery, described the cocaine found on Ms Ogbonaya to be of a very high purity quality, adding that had she not been stopped, the cocaine would have ended up being cut and sold on the streets of London.

 “There is no doubt that Ogbonnaya sought to abuse her position as a crew member by bringing these drugs into London,” Mr. Avery said. “As a result she now faces a long time away from home and behind bars. UK Border Agency officers are on constant alert to keep Class A drugs and other banned substances out of the UK and take them out of the supply chain before they reach the streets.”

The management of Arik Air could not be reached for comments Friday as all 10 telephone lines advertised on its website were switched off when our reporter called. 

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