£1m-a-week cocaine factory found by accident, court told
Jury hears police discovered 'industrial-scale' drugs ring during routine 999 call
Police attending a routine 999 call stumbled across a huge cocaine factory that netted a gang led by a former schoolteacher almost a million pounds a week, a court heard today.
Officers were amazed to find a 10-tonne hydraulic press, allegedly used to cut cocaine with other substances such as caffeine and ketamine, and an "arsenal" that included rifles, handguns and stun grenades.
The operation was allegedly run by former teacher James Waithe from a flat in Bristol, the city's crown court was told.
Waithe, 47, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, possession of firearms with intent to endanger life and possession of firearms and explosives.
Stephen Mooney, prosecuting, told the jury that one kilo of pure cocaine would be bought for £33,000, then cut with caffeine or other agents and sold on for huge profit. He said the "industrial-scale" drugs ring involved "mind-boggling" sums of cash and netted the gang between £600,000 and £900,000 a week.
The jury was told the gang of four moved into the drugs trade after members of a family drugs gang were jailed in 2007. The sophisticated operation was allegedly uncovered when a neighbour called 999.
Martial arts expert Waithe's judo suit and documents were found in the property. But when questioned by police, he claimed he rented the flat to another man.
Also on trial is Robert Brooks, 63, of no fixed address, who is currently serving four and a half-years in jail for possession with intent to supply heroin and crack cocaine.
In this case he has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to the supply of cocaine, but denies the firearms charges.
Craig Rodel, 46, of Totterdown, Bristol, admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine and possession of firearms with intent to endanger life, and possession of firearms and explosives. Grant Richmond, 29, of Lawrence Weston, Bristol, also pleaded guilty to the drugs and weapons charges.
The case continues.
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 22 October 2009 13.58 BST
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