Gang may have used fake cop and sniffer dog to get drugs packed suitcases past security at Bogota airport

Dailymail.co.uk LONDON – The­se are the fir­st pic­tu­res of the alle­ged drug smug­gling gang arre­sted after the sei­zu­re of £50million worth of cocai­ne on a pri­va­te jet flo­wn from Colom­bia to the UK. The five men – two Bri­ts, two Spa­niards and an Ita­lian – were held after half a ton­ne of the class‑A drug were alle­ged­ly found in their lug­ga­ge. Three – Brit bric­klayer Mar­tin Neil, Ita­lian chef Ales­san­dro Iem­bo and Spa­niard Vic­tor Fran­co Loren­zo, are said to have tra­vel­led to Bogo­ta for two days in Decem­ber befo­re retur­ning with the other two men late last month to alle­ged­ly pick up the cocai­ne at a five-star Mar­riott hotel. Colom­bian autho­ri­ties have con­fir­med a fake poli­ce offi­cer hel­ped ensu­re the drugs left the coun­try. Today it emer­ged the pre­tend cop was allo­wed to inspect the suit­ca­ses whe­re the cocai­ne was found despi­te tur­ning up alo­ne in an unmar­ked vehi­cle with a poli­ce jac­ket that was too big for him and a dog that didn't match the type nor­mal­ly used by anti-drugs squad offi­cers.

A pri­va­te con­trac­tor respon­si­ble for secu­ri­ty at local air­port han­gars inclu­ding the one the pla­ne left from, is under inve­sti­ga­tion. It was also clai­med Ita­lian orga­ni­sed cri­me group the Ndran­ghe­ta, lin­ked to the mur­der of desi­gner Gian­ni Ver­sa­ce, may have had invol­ve­ment. Last Monday's cocai­ne sei­zu­re, descri­bed by the UK's Natio­nal Cri­me Agen­cy as a major blow to orga­ni­sed cri­me was one of the lar­ge­st flo­wn into Bri­tain by pla­ne in recent years. The five suspec­ts have been named as bro­thers Mar­tin James Neil, 48, and Ste­phen John Neil, 53, from Poo­le in Dor­set, Ita­lian Ales­san­dro Iem­bo, 28, from Bour­ne­mouth; and Spa­niards Vic­tor Fran­co-Loren­zo, 40, and Jose Ramon Migue­lez-Botas, 55. They were reman­ded in custo­dy till March 1 after appea­ring at Uxbrid­ge Magi­stra­tes Court last Wed­ne­sday char­ged with impor­ting cocai­ne. Respec­ted Colom­bian new­spa­per El Tiem­po said bric­klayer Mar­tin Neil had spent two days in Colom­bia after jet­ting to Bogo­ta on Decem­ber 8 from Por­tu­gal with fel­low suspec­ts Ales­san­dro Iem­bo, who comes from the Cala­brian city of Cotro­ne, and Vic­tor Fran­co Loren­zo. It was not cla­ri­fied how they rea­ched Colom­bia on that occa­sion. The alle­ged invol­ve­ment of the Ndran­ghe­ta, one of the world's riche­st and most power­ful orga­ni­sed cri­me groups, in the fai­led cocai­ne smug­gling ope­ra­tion emer­ged as the alle­ga­tions emer­ged about a fake cop who is alle­ged to have hel­ped ensu­re the drugs left Bogota's El Dora­do Air­port.

Colombia's Defen­ce mini­ster Luis Car­los Vil­le­gas said on Fri­day a man posing as a poli­ce offi­cer to car­ry out 'rou­ti­ne sear­ches' on the pri­va­te jet's car­go, gave it the go-ahead to lea­ve the coun­try. Colombia's Natio­nal Poli­ce direc­tor Jor­ge Nie­to con­fir­med: 'We have foo­ta­ge of a fake poli­ce offi­cer with a sup­po­sed snif­fer dog. 'We are advan­cing in our inve­sti­ga­tion to deter­mi­ne the struc­tu­re of the gang behind this ope­ra­tion and iden­ti­fy tho­se respon­si­ble. 'The­re has obviou­sly been a secu­ri­ty breach at El Dora­do Air­port and we are loo­king at all aspec­ts of secu­ri­ty.' The owners of the han­gar in Bogo­ta the jet left from insi­sted today/yesterday (MON) they were vic­tims just like the plane's Austrian owner Tyro­lean Jet Ser­vi­ces. Fabio Humar Jara­mil­lo, legal repre­sen­ta­ti­ve of Cen­tral Char­ter S.A., said: 'We ful­fil­led all inter­na­tio­nal, natio­nal and inter­nal pro­to­cols for the­se type of flights. 'The pas­sen­gers descri­bed them­sel­ves as busi­ness­men. The jet they arri­ved in is a two-engi­ned aero­pla­ne that does trans­con­ti­nen­tal flights worth more than £40 mil­lion. 'The­re are very few pla­nes like this in the world and none in Colom­bia. We're tal­king about the sort of pla­ne someo­ne with Bill Gates' wealth might use.' The five suspec­ts arre­sted by UK poli­ce repor­ted­ly spent just 30 hours in Colom­bia, lea­ving Bogo­ta at 6pm local time on Janua­ry 28. Poli­ce in Bogo­ta have obtai­ned CCTV foo­ta­ge said to show men lea­ving the arri­vals ter­mi­nal at El Dora­do Air­port in the Colom­bian capi­tal with 13 suit­ca­ses and taking a taxi. CCTV sho­wing indi­vi­duals arri­ving at their hotel near the air­port is also in the hands of local inve­sti­ga­tors pro­bing the theo­ry the cocai­ne was pic­ked up in a room the­re and taken away in the 15 suit­ca­ses con­fi­sca­ted by UK poli­ce on Mon­day.

The hotel has been named local­ly as a luxu­ry Mar­riott Hotel a ten-minu­te dri­ve from the air­port thought to be the Bogo­ta Mar­riott Hotel. The Ndran­ghe­ta is belie­ved to ope­ra­te in at lea­st 13 coun­tries outsi­de Ita­ly inclu­ding the UK and Colom­bia. Clans in Lon­don are said to be acti­ve in money laun­de­ring, cate­ring and drug traf­fic­king. Cri­me-fighting orga­ni­sa­tion Euro­pol descri­bed the Ndran­ghe­ta as 'among the riche­st and most power­ful orga­ni­sed cri­me groups at a glo­bal level' in a 2013 report. The­re are sug­ge­stions the July 1997 mur­der of Gian­ni Ver­sa­ce on the steps of his magni­fi­cent Mia­mi man­sion was a mob hit, and claims he had links to the Ndran­ghe­ta cri­me group stret­ching back to when it col­lec­ted pro­tec­tion money from his mum's dress­ma­king busi­ness in sou­thern Ita­ly. Serial kil­ler Andrew Cuna­nan, a male pro­sti­tu­te, was iden­ti­fied as the gun­man after he was found dead on a hou­se­boat near the Ver­sa­ce man­sion eight days later having shot him­self in the dead. Con­spi­ra­cy theo­rists poin­ted to a dead dove found near the designer's body as a sign it was a mafia hit. The poli­ce main­tain the bird was the vic­tim of being hit by a stray bul­let frag­ment in the shoo­ting. The mafia hit claims fir­st sur­fa­ced in 2010 after disclo­su­res from two mob hit men Giu­sep­pe Di Bel­la and Filip­po Barec­ca alle­ging Cuna­nan had been fra­med for the mur­der. The disclo­su­res were con­tai­ned in a book about the mafia by respec­ted Ita­lian inve­sti­ga­ti­ve jour­na­li­st Gian­lui­gi Nuz­zi. The theo­ry was rapid­ly dismis­sed by both the poli­ce and Versace's fami­ly. The designer's incen­sed bro­ther San­to was quo­ted at the time as say­ing: 'Gian­ni never had any­thing to do with the Ndran­ghe­ta. 'The only cri­me my bro­ther was guil­ty of was spen­ding his money free­ly which I often remon­stra­ted with him about.'

The bro­ther of one of the suspec­ts cur­ren­tly lan­gui­shing in jail in the UK, dad-of-one Jose Ramon Migue­lez-Botas, 55, from Val­la­do­lid, nor­thern Spain, spo­ke of his shock after lear­ning of last week's arrests. Hair­dres­ser Ruben Migue­lez-Botas insi­sted the hair salon owner had told his fami­ly he was going to the UK for a short holi­day and never men­tio­ned spen­ding time in Colom­bia. Ste­phen Neil's ex-wife, Thai bri­de Rat­klaw Neil, insi­sted: 'I've seen the reports on the news but it can't be right. 'What do you think he did? Did he fly the pla­ne? Did he pack the suit­ca­ses? I can't belie­ve it's true.'

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