Soldier’s £50k cocaine haul

Border officials spotted fluid leaking from the package containing cocaine inside highlighters
Border officials spotted fluid leaking from the package containing cocaine inside highlighters
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A DISGRACED soldier had £50,000 worth of cocaine shipped to Redford Barracks in hollowed-out highlighter pens.

Former Rifleman Osita Omenyima, 35, was jailed yesterday for five years for his role in the audacious plot to smuggle 266 grams of cocaine from South America to Scotland using the Army as a front.

Osita Omenyima

Osita Omenyima

A parcel holding 38 highlighter pens laded with cocaine was intercepted by the UK Border Agency en route from Venezuela after fluid leaking from the package raised suspicions.

The Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) was called in and later an undercover policeman, posing as a delivery driver, went to hand over the consignment to Omenyima, who was caught following a chase across the barracks’ parade ground.

Omenyima denied knowing what was in the parcel, which had been sent by his cousin, and was led to the cells at the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday still protesting his innocence.

He said he was just “a fall guy”, but advocate depute Gillian More, prosecuting, said: “He used the Army to conduct this drug-dealing operation. He used his position in the Army as a front.”

A jury found him guilty of being concerned in the supply of cocaine between January and September last year.

Images released by the SCDEA have revealed that the dummy highlighter pens had been cleverly manipulated to perform normally because a segment of cloth soaked in dye had been packed inside each marker close to the nib.

Defending, solicitor advocate Richard Goddard explained that first offender Omenyima, a father of two, came from a law-abiding family in Nigeria.

He had re-married in April 2009 and his wife had given birth at the end of his trial, but they would soon have to leave the Army accommodation where they had been living.

“There is no doubt that the consequences of this conviction will be far-reaching, not just for Omenyima himself but for other innocent parties,” said his solicitor.

The results of what had happened would be “catastrophic”, he added.

Lord Malcolm, sentencing Omenyima, said since arriving in the UK he had done well in his chosen career in the armed forces.

He added: “However, you have thrown all this away by your deliberate involvement in an illegal trade which causes misery to ultimate users, their families and society in general.”

The judge told Omenyima: “The cocaine had a potential street value in excess of £50,000. This was a cash operation and on the evidence there would appear to be no motive other than financial gain.”

Lord Bannatyne continued: “Your involvement was revealed thanks to the dedication and careful work of drug squad police officers and UK Border Agency officials.”

Qualified accountant Omenyima grew up in Nigeria and came to the UK in 2008 to study in London, but changed his plans and enlisted in the Army in November that year.

DS Jim Reid of the SCDEA said: “This shows that there is no way for serious organised crime groups to hide.”

david.mcann@edinburghnews.com