Multi-million pound cocaine gang jailed after secret recording of ringleader's boasts
Four members of a multimillion pound cocaine-dealing gang were jailed yesterday after one of the largest police investigations in Scotland.
The men were involved in an “extensive” network which allowed them to drive high-powered cars and live luxury lives, the High Court in Glasgow was told.
Their activities were ended by a 15-month police surveillance operation, called Operation Lockdown, which involved up to 100 officers a day and resulted in the seizure of £9 million of drugs, machineguns and seven luxury cars.
Jamieson, 26, also from Paisley and who was jailed for eight years, used his profits to buy a £115,000 Lamborghini car, an £1,800 dog and three watches together costing £10,315. Steven Caddis, 30, and Gary Caddis were sentenced to six years and five years.
The court was told that the men were overheard by police using codewords while discussing buying and selling cocaine, mentioning prices that ran into tens of thousands of pounds.
Strathclyde Police searched 171 houses and questioned 146 people. Officers have so far seized drugs and drug-related material worth £8.8 million, £445,000 in cash, two Mac-10 machineguns and an assortment of sawn-off shotguns, rifles, handguns and ammunition.
They also took three Range Rovers, one BMW X5, one BMW X3, one Lexus and one Porsche Cayenne, as well as five Rolex watches, two Cartier watches and one Breitling watch.
At an earlier hearing all four men admitted dealing cocaine. Jamieson also pleaded guilty to money laundering.
Judge Lord Pentland said the sentences reflected “society’s condemnation” of the activities of gangs such as McCulloch’s. He told him: “It is a trade which wreaks so much misery on its users and their families. It is clear that you were one of those particularly concerned with organising and running an extensive criminal scheme involving large amounts of cocaine. The quantities and values of the drugs involved were substantial.”
The judge commended the police for their “skill and diligence” in bringing the gang to justice.
The court was told how Jamieson and McCulloch were involved in running a criminal business with “numerous employees”.
Police had obtained good intelligence to suggest that Jamieson had been involved in high-level criminality but did not have enough evidence to bring him to court.
Iain McSporran, for the prosecution, told the court that Jamieson had adopted a deliberately hands-off approach to the drugs trade, and it was thought unlikely that they would ever catch him red-handed.
Instead, officers put a bugging device in his car, a BMW X5, in the hope of catching him and his criminal associates planning and executing drug deals.
It allowed police to record conversations in which the gang members discussed the large amounts of money they were making from the cocaine they were supplying.
Jamieson later sold his car to McCulloch, enabling police to snare him as well.
Mr McSporran told the court it “may not have been the happiest purchase he ever made”. They talked about cutting the pure cocaine with other chemicals to increase its weight “four-fold”, the prosecutor said.
Jamieson even called his pet dog Benzo, short for benzocaine, a chemical used to dilute the drug.
On one occasion Jamieson was caught discussing a £140,000 cocaine deal — on another he spoke of a deal which police said would be worth £400,000.
Two cocaine factories in Clydebank and Glasgow were raided and police found a hydraulic press, used for mixing cocaine with other substances, and benzocaine.
Speaking after the sentencing, operation leader Detective Superintendent Colin Field said: “These men, who sat at the top of an organised crime group, believed themselves to be above the law. Today’s sentence proves how very wrong they were.
“Lockdown was one of our largest-ever investigations in terms of the number of arrests and the recoveries of drugs and firearms.
“This operation has demonstrated that whether you are the kingpin, the courier or the person who allows their house to be used for storing drugs or guns for those masterminding an organised crime group, you will all be held responsible.
The men were arrested in October last year and variously charged with supplying cocaine under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. All the offences took place between June 2007 and May 2008.
The ringleader, Brian McCulloch, 39, from Paisley, who was caught on tape boasting that he made £20,000 a day selling the drug, was jailed for 10 years. The court was told that he was caught when he bought a BMW jeep, which had a police listening device installed inside, from his co-accused Stephen Jamieson.
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