Grocer Who Used Fruit and Veg Stall as Drug Front Must Pay Back £400,000

Cocaine was hidden in trucks transporting strawberries, cauliflower, and broccoli to the Covent Garden stall.

by Ruby Lott-Lavigna
24 September 2018, 1:37pm

Photo via Flickr user Sirah Quyyom.

The question of where to hide your multi-billion pound narcotics business is one that plagues drugs barons far and wide. Perhaps burying illicit substances in exotic fruit could work? Or how about using pineapples, burritos, or a Kinder Surprise to transport your contraband?

However, hiding illegal drugs within food is a risky strategy.

Indeed a London greengrocer who used his fruit and vegetable stall as a front for a drug-smuggling ring was ordered to pay back £400,000 in a hearing last week, on top of receiving a 16-year prison sentence.

According to the Evening Standard, grocer John Fowler had been using his fruit and veg stall in Covent Garden as a front for a cocaine-smuggling business, until the ring was busted in 2012. The operation saw at least £5 million worth of drugs transported from Greece in fruit and veg trucks, hidden among watermelons, pomegranates, strawberries, cauliflower, and broccoli.

Fowler had been working with renowned drugs baron Kevin Hanley, once one of Britain's most wanted men in the drugs trade, when the bust happened.

Hanley used lorries from Fowler's fruit and veg business, Fowler's PCC Ltd, to transport cocaine from Venezuela, through Europe and finally, to Britain. Hanley’s girlfriend, a Greek television presenter, had been in charge of sourcing fruit and vegetables in Greece, in which to hide the drugs.

Fowler was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2014, but is now required to pay back the £416,739 of profit he made during the trade as a green-grocer-cum-drugs-baron.


drug trafficking
fruit and veg