Seven to be sentenced for cocaine operation
SEVEN MEN, including five from Tayside and Fife, will be sentenced today for their part in smuggling at least £1.4 million worth of cocaine into the UK.
The global conspiracy, which involved at least 25 people, 21 of whom have now been convicted of being involved in the supply of class A drugs, was spread between Britain, mainland Europe and South America, with Arbroath the Scottish centre of the gang’s operation, Liverpool Crown Court heard yesterday.
Prosecutor Brian Cummings QC told the court the drugs were brought into the UK by couriers, either in their stomachs or concealed in the bodywork of specially-purchased cars, some of which were also found with firearms and ammunition.
Human mules would swallow up to 90 pellets, each containing 10 grams of cocaine, before flying to Edinburgh and spreading the narcotics through contacts in Tayside and Fife, he said.
The gang was led by Michael Hailwood (39), originally from Liverpool but who also lived in Amsterdam and Arbroath for lengthy periods during the three-year period at the time of the offences. He pled guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs in January.
He was one of what Mr Cummings called “the big three” which was based in and around Amsterdam and included Dion Lee and another man who cannot be named for legal reasons— both of whom the UK authorities are still trying to bring to justice.
The drugs cartel was crushed after a three-year surveillance operation named Operation Greengage, led by officers from Lancashire Constabulary’s serious and organised crime unit and with the co-operation of the Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency and the authorities in Holland and South America.
Hailwood will be sentenced today along with his Scottish “right-hand man” Edward McIntosh (33), Spitalfield Place, Arbroath; Polish man Lucasz Litwinski (24), Glenogil Drive, Arbroath; Karol Siejda (20), Eskdale Rise, Bradford; and Martin Graham (43), of Methil, who had all previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A and class C drugs.
Leslie Graham (32), Peddie Street, Dundee, and Jason Bowley (35), of Croydon, had previously admitted charges of conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
James Boyle (47), Meldrum Road, Kirkcaldy, who also admitted conspiracy to supply class A and C drugs, will be sentenced next month.
Mr Cummings outlined how the group travelled through the UK, mainland Europe and South America and were traced by surveillance officers in the UK, Holland, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.
Flights to those countries were purchased at short notice by various members of the group “to avoid giving any investigators advance notice of their movements.”
He said there were also tapped telephone calls made on mobile phones in Holland between various members of the gang and 10 vehicles had been bought with the intention of taking them to Europe and returning with drugs hidden inside the bodywork.
He told the court there had been around 70 trips made by couriers escorted by members of the gang.
He said it was not possible to say with any precision the number of trips. However, each would have involved around a half kilo of cocaine of 100% purity, which meant there had been around 35 kilos at least brought into the UK.
Outlining their roles in the trafficking operation, Mr Cummings said Hailwood was “right at the top” of the conspiracy and spent significant amounts of time in Arbroath, staying at the home of McIntosh.
He was involved in the sourcing of drugs in Europe and South America and organising a team of “human mules” to bring the drugs back into the UK over an 18-month period following his release from a prison sentence in Holland in 2007.
Within a week of his release, the prosecutor said, he had been in contact with various members of the gang, including Edward McIntosh.
During that period, calls were traced between Hailwood, McIntosh and several other members of the gang and on some occasions Hailwood used McIntosh’s mobile phone to make calls.
“He made three trips to South America and travelled around different countries there,” Mr Cummings said.
“He also made numerous trips between Holland and the UK, he was connected to all the Scottish defendants and stayed in Arbroath with Edward McIntosh.”
He added that Hailwood was also in regular contact with several people who have since been jailed for their part in the conspiracy and had access to large amounts of cash. He was arrested in August 2008.
Mr Cummings told the court that telephone tracer records also show he was linked to Dion Lee and others already jailed—Tomasz Wisniewski, Natalie Nicholls, Stella Taylor and Nyome Hue.
“He was involved in the purchase of a Fiat Multipla in Arbroath which brought back material in December 2006 and also on August 1, 2007, which was foiled at Dover.
Litwinski, he said, played “an important supporting role” in the Scottish group, was involved in the purchase of the Fiat with McIntosh and also transported another vehicle from Scotland to Amsterdam.
“He was present at a meeting between the conspiracy gathering at the Toucan Hotel in Harlem in March 2007,” the prosecutor said, adding that he was a human mule who would swallow between 50 and 90 pellets, each containing 10 grams of cocaine worth up to £36,000, then fly to Scotland to pass them on to the dealers.
“Leslie Graham was a trusted associate of Edward McIntosh and was one of those who made trips to South America and numerous trips to Amsterdam, with or without couriers.
“He was arrested at Edinburgh on May 1, 2008 along with one of the couriers, Bartosz Kargul, who had a stomach full of cocaine, 61 10-gram pellets.”
The pair had made a similar trip two weeks previously from Brussels.
He said Martin Graham— who is not related to Leslie Graham—also made trips to Amsterdam and was recorded as having booked a one-way trip to Schipol Airport from Edinburgh at short notice, paying cash and returning to Edinburgh 24 hours later along with James Boyle and another man, who had bought another vehicle and driven it to Amsterdam.
He agreed with a suggestion by judge Mark Brown that Martin Graham’s role had been at a lesser level than some of the others.
Roderick Johnson QC, for Hailwood, asked Judge Brown to consider giving his client, who he said “had pled guilty at an early stage,” more than the normal 20% discount on his sentence for the early plea.
He said while his involvement in the conspiracy was at an important level, “it was not pervasive and not at the level of at least two others.”
He added that Hailwood had joined a conspiracy that was already up and running before he came on the scene and he first became involved through Edward McIntosh, who introduced him to Dion Lee after they met in Holland.
Describing him as a “model prisoner,” Mr Johnson told the court Hailwood had been “very much chastened” by his spell on remand and was very remorseful for the hurt he had caused his parents.
“He has resolved to reform—he accepts he will have plenty of time to do that,” he said. “He’s undergone drug courses in prison and has resolved to put all these matters behind him.”
Leslie Graham’s barrister Mr Thomson said his client went to Holland to avoid arrest on another matter, “and ironically this led to his involvement in this matter.
He met Hailwood in prison in Holland.
“It’s clear what his role was but clearly he wasn’t one of those involved in setting up the conspiracy,” he said.
Graham had lived on his own since the age of 14 after his parents split up, he told the court, but despite this he had continued at school and gained eight GCSEs.
Drink was his problem, Mr Thomson said and added, “getting involved was not to have the trappings of great financial gain, it was to fund more alcohol.”
He said Graham had done drug and alcohol awareness courses and has been working in prison since his capture.
Gerald Doran, for Martin Graham, said he recognised that he has failed his family.
“He has not turned his back on the system—he is looking forward and taking advantage of the services available to him,” he said.
“This has been a devastating experience for him and he’s learned a valuable and clear lesson.”
Stephen Nuttal, for Edward McIntosh, said his client was one of the first to plead guilty and, as such, had perhaps had an effect on the others who had since admitted their guilt.
“He has not sought to minimise his involvement, nor elevate the involvement of others,” he said.
As he has been in prison hundreds of miles from home he has not been visited by anyone other than his legal advisors, Mr Nuttal said.
Despite that he has been a model prisoner. However, he has been assaulted twice while on remand in prison.
“He deserves to be in prison but he does not deserve to be getting attacked, so any time he spends in custody will be the more painful for that.”
Litwinski’s barrister Andrew Smith said he had also done drug courses while on remand.
He said he was a young man, only 20, and he doesn’t hide from the fact he had a lengthy involvement.
“Now he has embraced what has been offered to him in prison and has worked very hard to establish a position inside prison.”
18 May 2010