Drug mule on trip to 'cool Leeds'

A Nigerian man who tried to smuggle cocaine worth £58,000 through Leeds Bradford airport said he was coming to the Yorkshire city for a holiday.

Instead of a holiday he is today starting a sentence of eight years imprisonment.

Ikechukwu Christopher Akandu, 43, claimed he came to the UK on holiday after friends told him "Leeds was a cool place to go".

But, he was closely watched on arrival and officers from the UK Border Agency uncovered a sophisticated concealment of cocaine in the struts of his suitcase when he was stopped at the West Yorkshire airport last September.

The value of the 500 gram haul was 12 times Akandu's annual salary in his home country.

Akandu claimed he worked for the state-owned Nigerian Petroleum company

and had been due to come to the UK for a course in Hastings, East Sussex.

He said he had missed the course and instead decided to embark on a last minute trip to the UK to see Leeds.

He had booked a six-night stay at a hotel in Oulton on arrival to the UK from Abuja, Nigeria.

While waiting for his flight he claimed he bumped into a friend who was keen to send his wife in the UK some food from home.

Akandu said he agreed to act as courier after first checking to see that there was food inside.

Officers discovered that Akandu had around €1,000 in cash on him and had already spent 1,300 on his flight and accommodation, despite claiming he only earned 400 a month.

He claimed he had received a 2,000 bonus and decided to take a holiday to "broaden his mind", leaving his two children and his heavily pregnant wife at home.

Akandu had in fact previously been to Europe on five separate occasions in the last 18 months.

The jury at Leeds Crown Court found Akandu guilty of drug smuggling after a three-day trial. He faces deportation after serving his sentence.

Malcolm Bragg, of the UK Border Agency, said: "Cocaine is an illegal substance that wrecks the lives not only of individual users but also their families and the wider community as a whole. The supply of the drug also fuels organised crime as this case shows.

Tony Burdin, chief executive of Sheffield Mutual Friendly Society

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