Detectives believe ‘there is no doubt’ Vladan Petrovic’s illicit haul was destined for distribution by Organised Crime Groups across the country.
The drugs, with an estimated street value of £4-5m, were discovered when warehouse workers in Heywood became suspicious and alerted police, who found 50 individual 1kg blocks of cocaine split between Petrovic’s HGV trailer and a holdall in his cabin.
Petrovic was found guilty of importation and possession with intent to supply at Manchester Crown Court on 9 December 2021.
He was jailed for 14 years for the importation with a further 11 years, to run concurrently, for the possession with intent to supply.
Petrovic started his journey in Italy, where his refrigerated HGV trailer was legitimately loaded with a shipment of frozen pizzas.
At an unknown location, Petrovic took possession of the cocaine, secreting 31kg underneath the pizzas and 19kg within the cabin.
Detectives found the drugs hidden in a load of frozen pizzas
Petrovic then drove across Europe and entered the UK via Dover, continuing his journey to Heywood.
Upon arriving in Heywood, warehouse workers at Lineage Logistics became suspicious when they unloaded the cargo and contacted police.
Officers from Greater Manchester Police’s Rochdale district attended the warehouse where they arrested Petrovic.
When they questioned him, Petrovic claimed mistaken identity, telling detectives the illegal load was destined for another HGV driver who looked like him.
He went on to state he thought the items were something of value but was unaware what.
Detective Constable Marshall Trower, of GMP’s Rochdale district, said: “Petrovic’s greed has outweighed the obvious risks of importing cocaine into the UK – he went to great lengths to try and secrete this illicit haul within his HGV, piggy-backing a legitimate load of perishable goods to try and hasten and circumvent checks at the UK border.
“There is no doubt that this haul of cocaine would have been distributed to Organised Crime Groups across the UK, including in Greater Manchester, ending up in the hands of gangs involved in exploitation and violence.
“I hope that this sentence will serve as a reminder to any HGV driver, pilot or another key criminal facilitator that the court recognise the importance of their role, and will sentence as such.”