A drug mule who swallowed a kilo of cocaine worth £80,000 was caught out pretending to be a Liverpool fan returning from the UEFA Champions League final when police saw him grimacing in pain.
Benjamin Nwaogwugwu, 43, who was recruited by Colombian drug lords, swallowed the huge 79 package haul at a hotel in South America before flying 5,000 miles to Paris and then home to the UK under the guise of being a football fan.
But he was detained on his arrival at Manchester Airport when officers saw him grimacing in pain due to the effects of the drugs and he was taken to hospital where it took two days to pass all the packages from his bowels for analysis.
Experts tested 19 of the packages to find all contained cocaine with a purity of up to 89% with the haul being worth up to £80,000.
Nwaogwugwu, of Longsight, Manchester, who has a wife and teenage children in the UK later claimed he had been pressured into becoming a drugs mule by gangsters who promised to look after other members of his family in his native Nigeria.
Benjamin Nwaogwugwu, 43, who swallowed a kilo of cocaine worth £80,000 hidden was caught out pretending to be a Liverpool fan returning from the UEFA Champions League final when police saw him grimacing in pain
Nwaogwugwu, who was recruited by Colombian drug lords, swallowed the huge 79 package haul at a hotel in South America before flying 5,000 miles to Paris and then home to the UK under the guise of being a football fan
He said he had been told to swallow 100 packages of cocaine but was physically unable to ingest them all.
It is not thought the former hotel worker suffered any long lasting medical ill effects from swallowing the drugs.
It emerged the Colombians had exploited an EU freedom of movement loophole to smuggle the haul into Europe via French Guiana which is used by cartel bosses as a gateway to Europe due to it being an ‘overseas department’ of France.
During questioning, officers checked Nwaogwugwu’s mobile phone and found incriminating pictures of a mysterious strip of land lined with palm trees plus a hotel based in South America.
At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, Nwaogwugwu was jailed for four years and two months after he pleaded guilty to importation of cocaine.
The arrest took place when Border Agency Officers intercepted Nwaogwugwu on June 1 2022.
He was detained on his arrival at Manchester Airport when officers saw him grimacing in pain due to the effects of the drugs and he was taken to hospital where it took two days to pass all the packages from his bowels for analysis
Robert Smith prosecuting said: ‘He confirmed he was not carrying anything he was required to declare and said he had been in Paris since Friday where he had watched the Champions League final with friends.
‘The defendant was asked whether he had any photographs of his weekend away but on inspection of his phone, there was a video of a strip of land with palm trees and an advert for a hotel in French Guiana, South America.
‘The defendant denied he had been to French Guiana and denied that he was carrying drugs in his system but he was then arrested and found to be in possession of a Spanish passport and a slip of paper with a telephone number on it.
‘As French Guiana is a department of France and thus an extension of the European Union and given its proximity to countries such as Colombia and Suriname, it is used by drug traffickers as a means of transporting drugs with ease due to the relaxed travel restrictions between EU countries for those using an EU passport.
‘Enquiries into flight records revealed the defendant had flown from Paris to French Guiana on the 28th May returning to Paris two days later.
‘Evidence of another booking from Paris to French Guiana was found from February 2022 but the ticket was exchanged at a later stage for a travel voucher which was used to pay for the trip in May.
Nwaogwugwu of Longsight, Manchester, who has a wife and teenage children in the UK later claimed he had been pressured into becoming a drugs mule by gangsters who promised to look after other members of his family in his native Nigeria
‘Having been provided with a laxative, the defendant over two days, whilst supervised at Wythenshawe Hospital, passed 79 packages containing a compressed white powder through his bowels. 19 were examined and found to contain cocaine weighing just under 13 grams each.
‘Assuming all the packages were the same, the consignment would be consistent with a kilogram of cocaine with an estimated wholesale value of £28,000 and if divided into 1g deals the value would have been £80,000. The purity varied from between 72 – 89%.
Nwaogwugwu answered no comment in interview. But in a detailed basis of plea he said he was born in Nigeria to a poor family and was the youngest of six brothers and had spent the last few years moving around Europe to find work in courts and hotels to support his family.
He said his eldest is currently at university and he felt the ‘financial pressure of providing for his family’.
The statement said: ‘In October 2021, Benjamin was approached by a group of five men in Nigeria who said that they could help his family financially and that they owed him for their apparent help in setting up his sister’s market stall.
Experts tested 19 of the packages to find all contained cocaine with a purity of up to 89% with the haul being worth up to £80,000
‘He was then contacted by them in 2022 who indicated that they could help his brother but that they would need to meet up in France to talk about it in person. He travelled to France and was then told fly to the French Guianan capital Cayenne where he was taken by taxi to a hotel where he remained for three days and did not see anyone until the third day.
‘On the Monday before being due to fly back, four to five males turned up at the hotel and told the defendant he had to swallow the packages containing the controlled drugs.
‘The defendant was told if he did not do this he and his family would be harmed and was threatened. There was a total of 100 packages but the defendant could only swallow 79 and was vomiting blood so had to stop. He was taken to the airport and flown back to France, then onto Manchester.
‘The defendant was under significant pressure to commit this offence but accepts this was not duress. The defendant did not stand to profit financially from this activity.’
In mitigation defence counsel Jack McCabe said: ‘This situation has been difficult for him and his family. It is a difficult tale where the individual has not only lost his liberty but also the trust of his family. He had made his way throughout Europe, working hard and has always made contact with his family wherever he went. But there has been significant pressure on him to provide for his family.
Nwaogwugwu said he had been told to swallow 100 packages of cocaine but was physically unable to ingest them all
‘He was approached and given an opportunity and yes there are significant elements of naivety. At certain points he has been exploited. He was only stopped at the airport given his serious physical pain – the pain he felt due to the swallowing of the packages. The very act speaks volumes for the perils the defendant was in.’
Sentencing Judge Tina Landale told Nwaogwugwu: ‘You became involved in an enterprise where you attempted to bring cocaine into Manchester.
You cooperated with it and then you tried to lie your way out of it. Drug smuggling is a vile, vile trade and it’s clear that these criminals prey on the vulnerable and you were exploited.
‘Up to now you had been making a positive contribution to the community and it is clear you are a man of good character and that you care for your family. However, this is an extremely serious offence and there must be a deterrence to prevent criminals from taking on these types of crimes.’