Page last updated at 19:28 GMT, Friday, 1 May 2009 20:28 UK

Cocaine smuggling gang are jailed

Alan Austin (l) and Jafar Hajebrahi
Austin (l) and Hajebrahim were the key players in the gang

Four men and a woman have been jailed for up to 22 years after being found guilty of smuggling cocaine worth £1m.

All five were sentenced at Bournemouth Crown Court in Dorset, with Alan Brian Austin, 55, from Barnstaple, Devon, sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Jafar Hajebrahim, 44, was also jailed for 22 years. Poria Abraham, 24, and Ali Tavakolinia, 38, were jailed for 12 and 11 years. All are from Bournemouth.

Louise Brindle, 33, from Christchurch, Dorset, was sentenced to five years.

They were convicted last month for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

Ferry seizure

The 14-week trial followed a three-year covert investigation codenamed Operation Fabula and included an extradition of Hajebrahim from Brazil.

The operation was a joint investigation by and Devon and Cornwall Police, Dorset Police and HM Revenue and Customs.

Customs officers at Portsmouth seized 10kg (22lb) of cocaine in December 2006 from a car driven by Brindle which had arrived from Bilbao in Spain.

Det Supt Russ Middleton, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said it had been a difficult investigation and a lengthy trial, but the sentences reflected the seriousness of the crimes.

Austin and Hajebrahim were said to be the key players.

During the trial, Austin, a former fireman from Barnstaple who owned property in Brazil, was described by the prosecution as a "controlling, cunning and confident individual" who was also at the centre of the conspiracy.

Hajebrahim, an Iranian national who had moved from Bournemouth to Brazil, owned businesses and property in the UK and Brazil and was one of the main figures in the gang responsible for financing and procuring cocaine.

He was successfully extradited from Brazil to the UK in July 2008 to stand trial.



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