A sting by the National Crime Agency (NCA) using covert listening devices caught the trio plotting in a cafe to import 55kg of class A drugs with a street value of £4.5 million.
Mark Youell, 64, from Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, was recorded telling his partners Alfred Rumbold, 65, from Orpington, Kent, and 73-year-old Brian Wright: “We’re gonna hit the jackpot” and that they were going to make “******* mega dough”.
All three have been found guilty of conspiring to import class A drugs following a trial at Isleworth Crown Court.
They will be sentenced on November 26.
An NCA spokesman said: “During the period of the conspiracy, the trio had a series of clandestine meetings with a Merseyside-based organised crime group who wanted to import class A drugs utilising Rolls Royce-driving Wright’s legitimate removals company.
“The previous day Wright had returned from conducting a ‘dummy run’, taking his lorry out to the Netherlands. He made a series of notes around border checks and security on his phone as he returned.
“The following week Wright made the run for real, collecting the drugs, which had been sealed inside fish tanks.
“However, as part of a joint operation involving the NCA and Dutch law enforcement, the truck was raided just outside Utrecht. Wright, who was sleeping inside, was arrested.
“The drugs were seized from their hiding place, with Dutch police recovering 20.5 kilos of heroin, 32 kilos of cocaine and three kilos of MDMA.
“At the same time NCA officers moved in on Youell and Rumbold, arresting them at their home addresses. Phones seized included a number of Encrochat and Sky ECC encrypted devices.”
NCA regional head of investigations Peter Stevens said: “This conspiracy involved a significant amount of drugs which were destined for the streets of the UK, where they would have been distributed by criminal gangs involved in violence and exploitation.
“Through the NCA’s covert investigation into their activities we were able to prove the crime group stood to make huge profits for themselves.”