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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • 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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss