Man jailed after 'brazen' attempt to smuggle £350,000 worth of cannabis into Belfast City Airport

Man jailed after 'brazen' attempt to smuggle £350,000 worth of cannabis into Belfast City Airport

A MAN who made a 'brazen' attempt to smuggle £350,000 worth of herbal cannabis into Belfast City Airport has been jailed for two years.

US citizen Akintunde Akinwande, 33, claimed he was unaware of the contents of two suitcases he had transported from San Francisco on March 28, 2022.

However, at Laganside Crown Court in Belfast in November, he pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis, drug smuggling and possession of cannabis with intent to supply.

He was sentenced at the same court on Friday.

"Akintunde Akinwande made no attempts to hide the illegal haul in his suitcases in a brazen attempt to smuggle a significant amount of drugs into Northern Ireland," said David Cunningham, Branch Commander at the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Coffee shop meeting

Akinwande was stopped by staff from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and Border Force, having travelled from San Francisco to Belfast City via London Heathrow.

While being questioned, he was asked to open his suitcases but claimed he did not have the codes.

When he called the contact to request the codes for the suitcases because authorities wanted to inspect them, he said he was told to walk away and abandon them.

After being forced open, 32 kilos of cannabis were discovered inside the cases.

The drugs were worth £350,000 (Image: NCA)

In an interview with NCA officers, Akinwande denied any knowledge of the drugs.

He said he had been told to meet a man in Burbank, California, where he would be given the suitcases.

He added that he was then told to travel to a coffee shop where he would be given $5,000 in cash, which he should use to book a return flight to Belfast.

'Crucial link'

"Akinwande's arrest took out a crucial link in the supply chain of these drugs which would have ended up on our streets," added Commander Cunningham.

“This is another example of the importance of the NCA's partnership working which protects our borders and stops illegal drug smugglers."

John Oldham, Deputy Director of Border Force Northern Ireland, said: "Border Force officers at Belfast City Airport were instrumental in stopping a significant quantity of drugs from entering Northern Ireland.

"Our continued work with partners, including the NCA, is effective in preventing drugs from reaching local communities where they fuel violence and exploitation, causing significant harm to our society."