A CZECH couple were caught trying to import deadly crystal meth into the region when they were stopped at Newcastle Airport.
When customs officers detained Maros Kristoff and Eva Makunova they discovered 1.4kg of the highly addictive stimulant hidden in their suitcase.
Also concealed in their bags was 2.7kg of cocaine, Newcastle Crown Court heard.
Makunova, who had been having an affair with married Kristoff, claimed she had been duped into helping in the plot after her lover told her he was taking her on holiday to the Gambia.
The seemingly romantic gesture turned sour when he got her to put the crystal meth, also known as methamphetamine, in her luggage.
Now the couple, from London, have been jailed for a total of 10 years after admitting drug importation offences.
Judge Paul Sloan QC said he accepted Makunova had been “exploited” and had a limited role in the illegal enterprise.
Prosecutor Neil Pallister told the court she genuinely believed she was going on holiday, not a drugs run.
Mr Pallister said: “She said he was her boyfriend, although he was married with children and would see each other once a week.
“He said on the Sunday or Monday before that he was going to take her on holiday. She thought it was a nice surprise.”
But the court heard during the holiday in the Gambia, the mum-of-three was duped into becoming a drugs mule and ordered to carry a specially converted suitcase to bring a haul of drugs through customs and into the UK.
When the pair were stopped at Newcastle Airport in May, customs officials found over 2.7kg of cocaine in Kirstoff’s luggage and over 1.4kg of crystal meth being carried by Makunova.
Judge Sloan jailed father-of-four Kristoff, 33, of Stanley Road, Edmonton, London, for six years and Makunova, 45, of Sebastopol Road, Edmonton, London, for four-and-a-half years.
They had both pleaded guilty to importation of class A drugs.
In her basis of plea to the court Makunova said Kristoff treated her “very badly” while they were in Africa and he kept all the money, passports and mobile phones, meaning she had no option but to travel back to the UK with him.
Her statement of plea reads: “Immediately prior to the return trip she realised he had involved her in something unlawful. She was in Africa, could not speak the language and didn’t know what to do.”
Customs officials found the drugs after their suitcases were scanned. The cases were found to have an “inner shell”, with the drugs hidden in a special compartment between that and the outer shell.
The court heard Kristoff had been on a “dummy run” to the Gambia shortly before the smuggling trip. The flights had been paid for in cash at travel agents in Newcastle by a third party.
Gul Nawaz Hussain, defending, said Kristoff got involved in the drugs plot when he fell into debt which he struggled to pay back. Mr Hussain said Kristoff was promised his debts would be wiped off in exchange for the drugs run.
He added: “He does not accept he treated her badly while they were there. However, he acknowledges by getting her involved in this he has to bear responsibility and he does.”
Christopher Mitford, defending Makunova said: “This has been totally devastating for her, she plainly regrets ever becoming involved in this. She has never taken any illicit drug in her life.”
He said on the Sunday or Monday before he was going to take her on holiday. She thought it was a nice surprise