Henrik Ruben, 28, and Dominic Leeman, 30, were arrested in 2016 after the UK Border Force discovered about half a ton of cannabis packaged inside two separate shipments of pizza cheese. Police believe the operation was part of a larger smuggling operation, using a company known as both Bertus Foods and Global Foods as a front.
The cheese-covered weed was being sent to a business park in Berkshire, where the contraband would be unpacked and distributed to dealers across the country. The leftover cheese was meant to be shipped back to the Netherlands, where it would be re-used in further smuggling attempts. Police say that Ruben was in charge of handling travel arrangements, while Leeman organized the “carousel” of sending the shipments back and forth.
Gallery — Surprise, Cops Also Smoke Weed:
The two men used encrypted phones to communicate, but the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) were able to break through the encryption and get to their messages. Cops discovered that the mens' phones contained ample evidence of their crimes. In one text, one man asked if he had to “put the old cheese in those boxes the product is delivered in," Plymouth Live reports. Ruben's phone also contained pictures of weed and hash, as well as pictures of a forklift loading suspicious packages into a truck.
This week, Ruben was convicted by a jury of conspiring to import drugs and sentenced to six years in prison. Leeman was also found guilty of the same crime, and will serve five and a half years behind bars.
"This is a significant disruption of an organized crime network who were intent on bringing illegal drugs into the UK,” said Martin Grace, branch commander at the NCA, in a statement reported by The Scotsman. "The pair thought they could fool us by disguising cannabis in food shipments and giving fabricated stories to border officials. But we are ready and have tools in place to disrupt drug supply and distribution.”
Drug smugglers often use food as a cover to ship weed internationally. In August, US cops seized four tons of weed stashed in a shipment of jalapeño peppers, and this week, US border police seized another 500 pounds of weed disguised as jalapeños. And back in 2017, US cops seized half a million dollars' worth of weed disguised as carrots. Yet despite smugglers' creativity, border guards always seem to be able to distinguish the difference between food and weed.