Mr piano mule: Man jailed for attempting to smuggle £4.2m illicit stash into the UK in the back of an upright piano

Piano with cocaine in it
(Image credit: Greater Manchester Police)

A man has been jailed for attempting to smuggle a batch of “high purity cocaine” into the UK… inside the back of an upright piano.

Francesco Role was stopped by Border Force officials at Newhaven Port, East Sussex, on 6 November 2023 on his return from Normandy, France. He claimed to be operating in the removal services industry - his van contained chairs, a bed, a cupboard and boxes - but when the officials felt the hefty weight of the upright piano that he was also transporting, they sensed that something was amiss.

On closer inspection, the piano was revealed to be a musical mule that contained 89 wrapped blocks of cocaine - one for every note on the keyboard with one left over - worth an estimated £4.2 million. Role was arrested, and Greater Manchester Police began an investigation.

It was quickly established that Role was using several fake delivery addresses across the UK, and he eventually pleaded guilty to two charges: conspiracy to supply class A drugs and the fraudulent evasion of the provision of the importation of class A drugs.

Unluckily for him, he’s now been jailed for 13 years; they’ll throw away the keys, presumably.

“We know that criminals are adapting their methods to evade law enforcement, which is why it is imperative that we continue to use all resources available to evolve with them and stay one step ahead,” said Detective Inspector James Coles from Greater Manchester Police Serious Organised Crime Group. 

“Had Role been successful in bringing £4 million worth of cocaine into the UK it would have had devastating effects to our communities. His arrest and long custodial sentence will undoubtedly disrupt the drugs trade and local dealers who were reliant on his shipments."

You can read more about the case on the Greater Manchester Police website.

Piano with cocaine in it

(Image credit: Greater Manchester Police)
Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.