Two men from Liverpool who used their haulage firm as a front for heroin trafficking have been told to pay back £312,232.37 in criminal profits. Kevin Noble, 61, and Kevin Aitchison, 45, were jailed for 15 and eight years respectively in April last year following a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation.
At Canterbury Crown Court on 28 August, Aitchison was ordered to hand over £80,436.58. Noble had been told to pay back £231,795.79 at a hearing on 2 August. Both men have been given three months to pay after NCA officers obtained confiscation orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Should they fail to pay within the time period, Aitchison and Noble will have their sentences extended by 12 months and 26 months respectively, while still being liable for the money.
Investigators told the court that the pair’s criminal enterprise afforded them a lifestyle that included luxury rental apartments on Liverpool’s waterfront and gambling away hundreds of thousands of pounds at bookmakers.
Aitchison and Noble were both arrested by the NCA hours apart in Mercedes vans marked ‘PNT Express’ at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Coquelles, France, on 19 October 2017. Aitchison was the first to attempt to return to the UK, but Border Force officers scanned his van and found packages containing 18 kilos of heroin with a potential street value of around £1.8 million hidden in a special compartment.
As the search of his vehicle took place, Aitchison had a text conversation with Noble, the last message of which read “Reckon am niked” (sic). Phone data uncovered by NCA investigators showed that, at this point, Noble was in France, but quickly turned around and returned to the Netherlands. When he arrived at Coquelles later that evening his van was empty, but an identical hidden compartment had been fitted.
NCA officers found that ‘PNT Express’ was not a registered company, and a number of bank accounts linked to Noble had more than £2 million paid into them in the preceding two years, much of which was via cash deposits. Hundreds of thousands of pounds in payments to online bookmakers had gone out of the accounts.
NCA operations manager Jon Hughes said: “Aitchison and Nobel were jailed for a combined total of 23 years, having been engaged in a lucrative plot to smuggle millions of pounds of heroin into the UK. The heroin trade fuels considerable violence in the UK, including through County Lines dealing. It also perpetuates the suffering of addicted and other vulnerable people. These confiscation orders will help to ensure Aitchison and Noble forfeit their wealth as well as their liberty. Not paying will keep them behind bars for longer, and the money owed would still hang over their heads. The NCA continues to use all the tools at its disposal to target illicit wealth.”