Britons, Umhlanga man face jail time over drugs

Two Britons and an Umhlanga businessman face minimum 15-year jail sentences if convicted of massive drug-dealing offences, for which they are on trial in the Camperdown Regional Court.

The Britons, who were handcuffed together when brought into court on Monday, are John Tutton (56), of Ballito, and Tom McKinnon (35), of Umhlanga. The third accused, South African Ernie Smith (59), of Umhlanga, is out on bail.

All pleaded not guilty to charges of drug dealing, which allegedly involved the export of dagga. One of the charges is related to the export of 8,1 tonnes of compressed dagga that was seized in the English port of Felixstowe.

In the United Kingdom, a member of the alleged syndicate, Robert Daniel Flook, has been convicted of importing drugs and is awaiting sentence.

Another charge is related to the export of dagga in furniture. On three occasions, it is alleged, the accused removed furniture from some cases and repacked them with dagga concealed in square frames, manufactured in their Pinetown warehouse for shipping to Britain—where Flook and others took delivery of them.

After British authorities seized dagga in Felixstowe, the accused closed down the Pinetown warehouse and Tutton obtained one in Tongaat. The accused moved their operation there.

It is alleged that in late 2006, the accused opened two of 12 crates of mirrors and built secret compartments inside them, concealing 150 parcels of cocaine.

In October last year, the accused managed the loading of these crates into a container. On the same day the police arrested Tutton and McKinnon at the Tongaat warehouse and recovered the 150 parcels of cocaine.

Regional magistrate Fred Heuer is presiding, the state counsel are Gert Nel, Attie Truter and Corne Radyn. Advocate Shane Matthews, instructed by Mason Inc, is defending the accused.—Sapa

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