Two jailed for cocaine importation offence  

Two men have today (29/4) been jailed for their parts in a plot to import cocaine which was halted by their boat being intercepted in the English Channel.  

Edward Duggin, aged 33, of Norris Way, Buntingford, Hertfordshire, along with Thomas Snell, aged 31, of no fixed abode, had pleaded guilty to conspiring to fraudulently avoid the prohibition on the importation of a controlled drug of Class A – cocaine – at a hearing at Southampton Crown Court on 30 March.   

Justine Romaraog, aged 22, of Talfourd Way, Redhill, Surrey, also pleaded guilty to the same offence at a hearing at the same court the following day.  

Today Duggin was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment and Romaraog to 11 years’ imprisonment at a hearing at Southampton Crown Court.  

The convictions follow a joint investigation by the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) and the National Crime Agency with the support of law enforcement partners. 

UK Border Force boarded an Azimut 50 Motor Cruiser called Bubble E that the defendants were travelling on in the English Channel off the coast of Falmouth, Cornwall, on 14 October last year.   

Officers uncovered that the defendants had been carrying out a ‘practice-run’ by conducting planned interceptions at sea with South American ships in order to assess the viability of collecting jettisoned packages.   

Traces of white powder, later confirmed to be cocaine, were found on board the vessel inside voids, indicating that these spaces had been used for the storage of cocaine in the past. 

The court heard that on 11 October 2021 the three left Dartmouth, where they had been re-fueling Bubble E, for Brest in France. Two days later the vessel travelled in to the channel where it conducted unusual manoeuvres at sea, close to where a large container ship travelling from South America was sailing.   

Messages discovered on Duggin’s mobile phone showed the use of an encrypted application and the content indicated the group’s intention. 

The defendants were arrested and subsequently charged on 15 October in connection with the conspiracy.  

As the investigation continued it was discovered that Bubble E and its crew – Romaraog and Duggin – departed Southampton Water on 9 September with the intention of meeting a yacht in the English Channel.  The purpose of the trip was to take on board two tonnes of cocaine that had been smuggled from South America by the wider organised crime group. However, as a result of an operation by the NCA and UK Border Force, the inbound yacht was intercepted and the drugs discovered.  

Those upon Bubble E did not make it to the meeting and returned to port undiscovered.  

GPS data recovered from the vessel indicated that it had performed unusual and suspicious activity near a South American container ship in darkness on another occasion. 

Investigating officer Detective Sergeant Dan Hope, of SEROCU, said: “Duggin and Romaraog have been sentenced for their parts in an agreement to import large quantities of cocaine – a drug which causes widespread harm across the country and goes hand-in-hand with a myriad of other offences – exploitation, crime to fund addiction and harm to the most vulnerable in society.  

“Officers from the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit led a complex investigation, working closely with law enforcement partners including UK Border Force and the National Crime Agency to ensure evidence was shared and these men faced justice.  

“We’ll continue to work together to ensure we tackle the threat serious and organised crime has upon the communities of the South East.”  

Snell is due to be sentenced at Southampton Crown Court on 9 June. 

– ENDS – 

Notes to editors 

Further images from the case are available.