Ex-police chief complains her son jailed for running £135million cocaine smuggling gang wrongly labelled 'drug lord'

31 July 2023, 10:14 | Updated: 31 July 2023, 10:32

Sue Arnold says her son who smuggled £135m of cocaine and heroin into the UK was 'wrongly' portrayed as a 'drugs lord'
Sue Arnold says her son who smuggled £135m of cocaine and heroin into the UK was 'wrongly' portrayed as a 'drugs lord'. Picture: Conservative Party/West Midlands Police

By Emma Soteriou

A former police chief has said her son was "wrongly" portrayed as a "drugs lord" in a £135m smuggling operation after he was jailed for 23 years.

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Sue Arnold also claimed she and her husband "have been the victims of some policing sharp practice" from West Midlands police officers.

The force said Jonathan Arnold, of Sutton Coldfield, was the "ringleader" of the group which brought nearly two tonnes of cocaine, heroin and ketamine into the UK via ports using a furniture removal company as a front.

Arnold admitted in court that he was involved in a conspiracy to supply 1,477kg of cocaine, with an approximate value of £118 million. The drugs were hidden inside pallets of bananas on board of a ship from Colombia. 

But his mum, who was once deputy police and crime commissioner in Staffordshire, said her son had fallen in with the wrong crowd but was not a "drugs lord".

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The gang used a furniture removal company as a front for their travel.
The gang used a furniture removal company as a front for their travel. Picture: West Midlands Police

"The 'drug lord' inference is more evidence that has left my husband and I dumbfounded by the police's wrongful portrayal of our son as the 'kingpin' of the operation, presumably because it suits their narrative to imply they have snared the lead player," she said.

Ms Arnold admitted that her son had made "reckless decisions" and that she and her husband "still cannot fully comprehend where it all went wrong".

In a statement to Birmingham's Sunday Mercury newspaper, she said: "After dedicating 10 years of my life to supporting as well as holding law enforcement in this country to account, I feel that my husband and I have been the victims of some policing sharp practice.

"We fervently believe we have been persecuted by the police.

"We also accept our good standing in the community is in jeopardy with the prospect of reputational damage leading to possible ostracisation in the village community.

"One pertinent aspect of that involves me recently refusing the opportunity of a lifetime to become a deputy lieutenant for Staffordshire, premeditating the shame it would bring on the Crown if I had accepted."

Major organised crime gang facing years behind bars

Jonathan Arnold was jailed for 23-and-a-half years at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday.

Three others in the group - James Jenkins, 25, Connor Fletcher, 25, and Humayan Sadiq, 43 - were also jailed for a combined 77 years between all four.

Arnold enjoyed a life of luxury on the back of his drugs importation empire, enjoying trips to Dubai where he would film himself driving a Ferrari, police said.

The gang would use dummy loads of furniture to hide packages of drugs in lorries and vans, some of which had hidden compartments to conceal the shipments.

Officers from the West Midlands, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and West Mercia forces working in the Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) dismantled the gang’s operations.

op left: Arnold, right: Fletcher. Bottom left: Jenkins, right: Sadiq
op left: Arnold, right: Fletcher. Bottom left: Jenkins, right: Sadiq. Picture: West Midlands Police

Following the group's sentencing, Tim Burton, Specialist Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “This was a sophisticated criminal operation and the amount of drugs this gang was attempting to import into the country was colossal.  

“These drugs were intended to be put into the hands of other crime groups. Had everyone involved in this criminal activity been successful, millions of pounds worth of drugs could have ended up on the streets of UK towns and cities causing public harm. 

“The CPS worked closely with the NCA and West Midlands Police Regional Organised Crime Unit to build a strong case resulting in their conviction, disrupting the trafficking of drugs into the country.”