A gang will be jailed today for bringing drugs with a street value worth millions of pounds onto the streets of South Wales.
The illegal operation was halted by specialist police units who tracked the heroin trade from a warehouse in Manchester to meeting points in Cardiff.
At the heart of the business was a man known to his associates as Ratty, prosecutor Nicholas Gedge told Cardiff Crown Court yesterday.
Ritesh Patel, 28, of Brithdir Street, Cardiff, had a black convertible Bentley parked outside his terraced home at the centre of the city’s student area Cathays and talked of his dreams to save £1m a year.
His lawyer yesterday told the court the ambition was just a pipe dream and that the Bentley and other luxury cars were hired, not bought.
Patel has admitted receiving 29 deliveries of the class A drug over an eight-month period – each consignment weighing two or three kilos.
Prosecutors claim those amounts would have been worth almost £4m if reduced for sale to very small deals.
But John Charles Rees QC, for Patel, said he was a wholesaler, not a street dealer, and would have sold on his supplies for less than half that amount, leaving him with only a small profit after taking out his buying costs.
“He accepts he’s dealt in substantial quantities, but we are not talking massive amounts.
“He was not the importer or even one-removed from the importer and, although he likes driving luxurious cars, he hired them for a month, he didn’t buy them.
“He was further down the chain and the heroin had already been cut to one-third purity by the time it reached him.”
Large amounts of “cutting agent” used to increase the drugs’ bulk before sale were found at a poultry farm outside Manchester, from where the heroin began its journey south.
Mr Gedge said: “The evidence is that if all the adulterants found at the farm had been used, then heroin worth £19m could have been produced.”
Cardiff cabbie Mohammed Hussain, 28, of Redhouse Road, Ely, Cardiff, admitted making 60 trips to the North-West carrying cash to pay for the class A drugs.
Mr Gedge said: “He undertook frequent trips after removing the taxi signs from his car.”
The court heard that journeys north with money would result in others making the journey south with heroin the following day.
Officers from the All Wales Task Force and Serious Organised Crime Agency set up surveillance, covert recordings and vehicle number recognition to observe meetings taking place at locations across Cardiff, including the Birchgrove pub, Techniquest at Cardiff Bay, Kentucky Fried Chicken in Newport Road, the car park of the Majestic wine warehouse on North Road and the Coach and Horses at Castleton.
The police’s “Operation Texas” ended on June 17 last year when a car was stopped near Ross on Wye and drugs seized from inside.
Heroin worth up to £470,000 was found at the farm along with drug presses and packing equipment.
Patel and Hussain, who have no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin, as did Anthony Clarke, 50, of Glyncollen, Caerphilly; Daniel Bowyer, 22, Bishpool View, Newport; Pinakin Patel, 22, Brithdir Street, Cardiff; Manchester- based John Almond, 46, and Stuart James, 25, of no fixed address, Daniel Carragher, 21, Heathwood Road, Manchester, and Terrance McMullen, 32, The Broadway, Lancashire.
Paul Morten, 44, of The Ridgeway, Stockport, denied the charge and also a second allegation of possessing amphetamine with intent to supply.
He was convicted by a Cardiff jury.
All 10 will be sentenced today.
Liz Keen WalesOnline Jun 17 2011
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