A Coventry crime boss who tried to smuggle heroin worth nearly £5million into Britain has been jailed for 23 years. Andrew Lillis, aged 47, of High Beech, Allesley, was head of an organised crime gang which imported 44 kilos of high-purity heroin into Felixstowe from Pakistan in August 2014.
The Class A drugs with a street value of £4.8m were hidden inside the rams of two hydraulic presses weighing nine tonnes.
National Crime Agency (NCA) officers covertly followed the shipment to an industrial unit in Desford near Hinckley and then on to another industrial estate in Birmingham.
Surveillance, fingerprints on paperwork and mobile phone records linked seven men to the shipment and to each other. Lillis, along with Mark Regan, 44, and Skinder Ali, 37, both from Birmingham, as well as Garry Campbell, 58, of Inverness, Trevor Connor, 41, of Birmingham, Darren Clarke, 52, of Kingsbury and Anthony Boyle, 46, of Birmingham were arrested between September 2014 and June 2015.
Investigators discovered that the group had previously organised two similar shipments from Pakistan, believed to be dry runs for the drugs delivery. All three shipments had been addressed to Campbell’s company, GMC Continental, providing a veneer of legitimacy.
At Birmingham Crown Court on Friday, Judge Peter Carr jailed the men for a total of 121 years: Lillis 23 years, Regan 21 years, Ali 21 years, Campbell 16 years, Connor 15 years, Clarke 15 years and Boyle 10 years, describing their plot as “a well-planned and sophisticated operation”.
What did the National Crime Agency say?
After the men were sentenced Paul Risby, branch commander at the National Crime Agency, said: “Border Force and the NCA faced a difficult job in intercepting this equipment, opening it up and re-sealing it at speed while preparing an investigation, but were able to complete it all without the criminals suspecting.
“After that, traditional investigative techniques and the criminals’ own hands on approach combined to bring them down. Their fingerprints were all over the documents.
“The money generated by the sale of the heroin would have funded more criminality.
“It also shows the lengths those groups will go to in trying to evade border controls, and what we can and will do to ensure they don’t succeed.”
What did Border Force say?
Charlotte Mann, Border Force assistant director at Harwich, said: “This was a sophisticated attempt by a group of serious criminals to smuggle heroin worth many millions of pounds on to the streets of the UK. It is testament to Border Force officers’ expertise that they did not succeed.
“The drugs had been hidden inside specially adapted pieces of hydraulic equipment. So elaborate was the concealment that it took Border Force officers several days to dismantle the machines and reach the drugs.
“Using advanced search techniques and the very latest technology, Border Force officers are on the front-line of the fight to stop drugs, weapons, contraband and illegal immigrants entering the UK.
“Working with law enforcement colleagues including the NCA we are determined to do all we can to prevent drug trafficking and put those responsible behind bars.”
And the Crown Prosecution Service?
Sarah Dillon, from the organised crime division at the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “In court we presented a strong case with the help of forensic digital evidence taken from mobile phones which exposed their conspiracy to traffick heroin from Pakistan.
“It was a difficult case but the hard work of the NCA, Border Force and the prosecution team means this attempt to use a container ship to smuggle £4.8m worth of drugs into the UK has been scuppered.
“Today they have been sent to prison for a total of 121 years, sending a clear message that British agencies will work together to ensure those who try to import drugs will be caught and placed before the courts.”
By Duncan Gibbons - Coventry Telegraph/Sept. 11, 2016
Photo: UK National Crime Agency
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