Cocaine gang 'caught on camera'

By Rightnow289 · May 13, 2009 · ·
  1. Rightnow289
    Drug smugglers who attempted to import cocaine with a street value of £14m were caught on camera throughout their elaborate scheme, a court heard.


    The five men are charged with conspiracy to import cocaine and to supply amphetamines.
    Phillip Grange, of Nottingham, Peter Hannigan, of Kendal, and Simon Finlay, Darren Morris and Mark Neville, all from Preston, deny the charges.
    They appeared at Manchester Crown Court at the start of the six-week trial.
    The court heard that the smuggling of the Class A drug, which had been under police surveillance between Britain and Germany, was finally stopped by customs officers in Harwich, Essex, in May last year.
    Andrew Thomas, prosecuting, told the jury that 105kg (230lbs) of high purity cocaine was discovered in the back of a removals van.

    'Fictitious soldier'

    It was hidden in furniture, supposedly belonging to a fictitious soldier, Sgt John Bickerstaff. The court heard the gang had used the pseudonym in order to smuggle the drugs into the UK.
    Mr Thomas told the court the events of 28 April 2008 played an important part in the alleged conspiracy.
    He said: "The police surveillance had identified a significant meeting for the defendants as they prepared to make the Bickerstaff run."
    The jury were told all the men were spotted on camera meeting at a lock-up in South Ribble, Lancashire.
    When police later raided the premises a suitcase was found, containing amphetamines with a street value of £54,000.
    After the meeting the gang left - one went to Rotterdam, the others headed to Dusseldorf via Belfast and Dublin.
    They then met in Monchengladbach, north Germany.

    Prison sentences

    Mr Thomas said two days later an early morning drug pick-up took place at a motorway junction close to the Dutch border.
    He said the gang made 12 calls and text messages to Dutch mobile phones prior to the meeting.
    Later that day Mr Hannigan, posing as Sgt John Bickerstaff, and 33-year-old Mr Finlay dropped off the drugs in the removal van at a depot for transportation back to the UK.
    Mr Grange, 55, Mr Hannigan, 50, and Mr Neville, 42, all served prison sentences for drug trafficking offences, the jury previously heard.
    Mr Neville, who ran Briggs Bargains Centre in Bamber Bridge, was on day release from Kirkham Prison at the time of the alleged offence.
    The trial continues.

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  1. Balzafire
    [imgl=white][/imgl]A drug dealer launched a £14million cocaine smuggling racket - while on day release from prison.

    Mark Neville, 43, was serving eight years when allowed out to run a second-hand goods store as part of his rehabilitation.

    But he used the business as a front to import cocaine into Britain hidden inside furniture shipped from Germany.

    The former haulage boss recruited a gang that posed as military families who wanted home equipment moved back to the UK from an army base.

    His racket was eventually smashed following a three month under-cover operation which ended in 105kg of cocaine being seized from two lorries at Harwich docks in Essex. Last night, Neville was starting a 26 year jail sentence after being convicted of smuggling.

    Prosecutor Joanne Cunliffe told Manchester crown court yesterday: "This was a serious and sophisticated drugs conspiracy.

    "It had been meticulously planned over a number of months. There can be no doubt that these drugs would have been destined ultimately for sale on the streets if they had not been intercepted."

    Neville, of no fixed address, was halfway through a sentence in Kirkham prison, Lancs, for plotting to smuggle £1.25million of heroin when bosses allowed him out to run the Brig Bargain Centre in Preston.

    But the dad-of-four joined up with accomplices Peter Hannigan and Phillip Grange - both on parole after drugs sentences - to launch the smuggling operation.

    The store gave him access to warehouses, vehicles and a ready explanation for his phone use.

    Hannigan, 51, of Kendal, Cumbria, was jailed for 22 years over the racket. Grange, 57, of Nottingham, got 18 years. All three men were found guilty.

    Three other members of the gang were jailed for between 13 and 18 years. Another, John Morris, 52, will be sentenced later after admitting conspiracy.

    By Paul Byrne
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