An HGV driver and convicted people smuggler has been jailed for 11 years after attempting to bring into the UK high purity cocaine worth £1m.

It took a jury at Canterbury Crown Court just two hours to find Ukrainian national Serhii Tukalo, 39, guilty of drug smuggling after Border Force stopped his truck in Dover in May.

An X-ray of the vehicle revealed anomalies in the load of air compressors and pressure washers from factories in Northern Italy.

On closer inspection, officers found 20 kilo blocks of cocaine wrapped and hidden in boxes holding equipment.

Tukalo was arrested but he maintained that he had no knowledge of how the drugs arrived in his vehicle.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said evidence seized from the lorry included two mobile phones and a Sim card holder with a sticky note attached featuring details of a UK phone number.

Forensic experts downloaded his phone data and found images of UK and Ukrainian bank notes.

The NCA argued that the exchange relates to a known system between drug and cash couriers whereby each recipient would be able to present the exact note in person to prove their identity.

Paperwork was also recovered which showed Tukalo had been convicted in France in 2021 for attempting to smuggle two Albanian migrants into the UK in the cab of his lorry.

Derek Evans, NCA operations manager, said: “Tukalo saw an opportunity to exploit his professional services as a haulier to import a significant quantity of Class A drugs into the UK and avoid detection.

“However, through effective processes at our borders, his vehicle was identified. His defence was dismissed by the jury within a short time frame, such was the evidence presented to the court.

“This sentence should serve as a deterrent to others who may seek to exploit our borders who may face the same fate.”