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17/01/2008 00:00:00

UK: 3 million pound cannabis smugglers get 8 years

TWO fruit and vegetable traders involved in a plot to import 1.2 tonnes
of cannabis into the UK, hidden in a consignment of potatoes, have had
their "unduly lenient" jail terms increased.

Businessmen, Lawrence Padoan (51) and John Terrence Smith (55), both
from Spalding, used their legitimate companies as "a front" for the
massive cannabis importation.

But, when the consignment of 4,398 blocks of cannabis – worth just under
£3 million on the streets – arrived among the potatoes at Dover in April
2003, customs officers swooped and the conspiracy was foiled.

Padoan, of Wykes Lane, and Smith, of Holbeach Bank, both of previously
unblemished character, were each jailed for five years after being
convicted of conspiring to smuggle cannabis resin at Winchester Crown
Court in September last year.

However, their case was referred to the Appeal Court in London by the
Attorney General, Baroness Scotland QC, who argued the sentences were
"unduly lenient".

Lord Justice Thomas, sitting with Mr Justice Davis and Mr Justice David
Clarke, yesterday agreed and increased the pair's jail terms to eight years.

He said both men had been blameless fruit and vegetable traders all
their working lives and the judge, who presided over their month-long
trial, had said he could not imagine how they had fallen in with the
mastermind behind the cannabis plot, who is serving a long jail term.

Their arrests came after a wide-ranging National Crime Squad inquiry
which led to a number of arrests in 2003, and culminated in four
separate trials.

Padoan and Smith had used their legitimate companies as a front for the
cannabis importation from Spain.

Padoan's company was named as the shipper of the potatoes and the
delivery address was given as Smith's business.

Lord Justice Thomas said there was a continuing dispute over the exact
roles played by the pair in the conspiracy.

They claimed they were only to receive £400 for their part.

However, there was evidence of a series of meetings between the pair and
the main mover behind the plot and, although they were plainly not
towards the top of the chain of command, they had been more than "mere
foot soldiers" or "subordinates" in the conspiracy, he said.

Padoan and Smith, who was in poor health and whose company was in "dire
financial straits", had been chosen to participate in the conspiracy
precisely because of their apparent respectability and their legitimate
businesses, added the judge.

Author: Peterborough Evening Telegraph via UKCIA

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