Man cleared in Customs heroin 'sting': Operation to arrest businessman for drug smuggling relied on mercenary as paid informer

A BUSINESSMAN was cleared of importing heroin into Britain yesterday after a jury was told Customs investigators relied on a notorious mercenary as a paid informer.

Raymond Okudzeto, 57, a Ghanaian political refugee, was acquitted at Southwark Crown Court of importing half a kilo (1.1lb) of heroin, worth pounds 40,000, found at his home in Primrose Hill, north London in 1991. It was his second trial after an Old Bailey jury failed to reach a verdict in September last year.

Mr Okudzeto told Southwark Crown Court he thought he was working with mercenary recruiter John Banks and British law enforcement agencies to capture real drug dealers. Mr Okudzeto said he had previously passed information to Mr Banks.

Instead, Mr Banks, who allegedly owed Mr Okudzeto money, double- crossed him and set the businessman up in a Customs 'sting' operation.

Stuart Stevens, for the defence, said Mr Banks supplemented his income by 'setting-up innocent people for reward'. Mr Banks, of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, denied this but admitted that he was paid pounds 750 by Customs officials for his information. He said that he was only motivated by his hatred of drugs.

Mr Banks claimed that when approached by Mr Okudzeto to find a buyer for a 2kg consignment of heroin, he went straight to the authorities. Customs and Excise officers then staged an undercover operation, posing as heroin dealers, and arrested Mr Okudzeto in October 1991.

The earlier trial was told how Mr Banks first rose to prominence in 1974 when he recruited British mercenaries to fight in Angola. He described himself in court as a 'military adviser' to Third World countries. He said he first met Mr Okudzeto after the businessman asked him to organise a coup in Ghana.

Mr Banks, who claims that he holds the rank of major after fighting for south Vietnamese forces in the Seventies, admitted convictions for theft and deception. In 1980 he was jailed for two years for blackmailing a Nicaragaun Embassy official. He had denied demanding money with menaces after implying Nicaragua's leader would be killed otherwise. The earlier trial was told Mr Banks joined The Parachute Regiment in 1962 but was discharged as a private in 1969. Mr Banks freely admitted that he was prepared to organise the assassination of political figures. He claimed that he had worked for the Special Branch, British government security agencies, and for the CIA.

In the months leading up to the first trial, Customs officers refused to admit Mr Banks played any role in Mr Okudzeto's arrest and were accused of failing to disclose vital documents to Mr Okudzeto's defence team. The court was told that Customs officers were trying to protect their informant. They also attempted to block publication of any mention of Mr Bank's involvement in the case.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Support Engineer

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Support Engi...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence