Highbury man jailed for smuggling weed in grand piano

A drug smuggler who stashed more than �400,000-worth of cannabis in a grand piano has been jailed for six years.

Evan Masson, 34, of Drayton Park, Highbury, arranged for the consignment to be shipped from his native South Africa to a disused warehouse.

The former sound engineer enlisted construction boss and fellow South African Brian Beangstrom, 60, of Wightman Road, Harringay, to help him transport the load.

But the pair were caught red-handed by customs officers as they prised open the piano crate at the warehouse in Hornsey last October.

The shipment – containing 143.9 kgs of the class B drug – had been under surveillance for a week after it was intercepted by UK Border Agency officials when it entered the UK through Felixstowe.

Defending Masson, Minka Braun said he lost his job at the London Music Studios in the recession, and was reduced to sleeping on his elder sister’s sofa when freelance work dried up. She said: “He accepts that his dire financial situation was the catalyst for finding himself involved in offending of this sort.” He planned to use some of the cash to travel to Australia to fight for custody of a son he had never met, she added.

Defending Beangstrom, Scott Ivill said his client believed until a late stage they were collecting a family heirloom, and was offered just �300 to help.

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Beangstrom was sentenced alongside Masson at the Old Bailey on last Thursday to 18 months in prison, but will walk free in less than two months having already spent 210 days on remand.

Judge Timothy Pontius told them: “The conspiracy in which, on your own admission, you were both involved, was a large-scale enterprise.”

Masson took a leading role in organising the drug shipment and stood to make a “significant financial reward”, he added.

The judge told Beangstrom: “It is a tragedy that someone of mature years with a commendable employment background and your lack of significant previous offences should be tempted into crime of this scale for only paltry reward.”

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