Charcoal business was front for £11m heroin smuggling attempt

A drug trafficker who tried to smuggle heroin worth millions of pounds into the UK by disguising it as a charcoal shipment has been jailed following a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation.

Vasil Stoyanov, aged 30 (pictured), hid the drugs in the sides of more than 200 cardboard boxes of charcoal.

Custody image Vasil Stoyanov

He was convicted of importing heroin at Maidstone Crown Court and sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment.

Border Force (BF) officers detected the lorry-load of heroin in June 2015 at Dover Eastern Docks.

A BF officer found 130g of the drug powdered and sealed in a plastic bag in the wall of one of the shipment’s 2,000 cardboard boxes.

A full search of the lorry’s load found 228 boxes had heroin inside concealed in the same way.

The wholesale value of the drugs is estimated at £3,192,000 and its value when sold on the street £11,049,100.

The load was addressed to Lizzy86 Ltd, Stoyanov’s company which the investigation quickly exposed as a front.

NCA officers arrested the Bulgarian, and Cambridgeshire police officers searched his home address and a lock-up in Kettering.


As well as identical boxes of charcoal, the police officers at Stoyanov’s address found latex gloves and five Stanley knives.

At the lock-up the officers found boxes of charcoal which had been cut into using a Stanley knife, suggesting they had been searched for drugs.

Stoyanov’s eBay account listed two just two lots of charcoal for sale, at £3.50 each. Documents found at his home and rental premises showed he had spent more than £66,000 on three large orders of charcoal for a return of £67.

Mark Harding, senior investigating officer at the NCA, said: “Importing charcoal’s always been a dirty business but Stoyanov added a particularly nasty twist, using it as cover for heroin smuggling.

“The seizure by Border Force and the NCA’s investigation means serious organised criminals have lost out on a huge revenue stream and street-level dealers won’t be able to endanger heroin users and the communities in which they live.

“It’s also shut down a smuggling route that could have been used to bring any kind of dangerous commodity into the country.”

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