Skunk cannabis smuggled from Holland in flower boxes

By buseman · Jun 18, 2010 · ·
  1. buseman
    The Dutch flower industry provided the ideal cover for a multi-million pound drug smuggling gang operating between Holland and Britain.

    The ring, which has been smashed by police, was responsible for smuggling tonnes of skunk cannabis hidden in lorry loads of flowers from the Netherlands.

    The gang based themselves in old buildings at Poplar farm in Wanborough, near Swindon, Wiltshire.

    When police struck last year they seized 10 tonnes of skunk with an estimated street value of £30m.

    Eight men and a woman were arrested during the investigation, which involved detectives from Wiltshire and their Dutch counterparts.

    Gang leader David Barnes, 41, from Hungerford, Berkshire, was the mastermind behind the operation which supplied dealers throughout England and the Irish Republic.

    Perfect conditions
    The flower-growing industry of Holland provides the perfect set of conditions and ideal cover for growing cannabis and for exporting the drugs.

    Where you can grow tulips, you can grow cannabis - and the dealers took advantage of the flower trade to ship their haul to the UK.

    After buying boxes of cut flowers at the giant international flower market at Naaldwijk near The Haig, the gang would then take them to their own warehouses before placing the bags of cannabis beneath the flowers.

    Five of the gang pleaded guilty before the trial
    Det Sgt Thom Hoekstra of the Dutch police said: You've got the chrysanthemum, which is a long flower with a long stem.

    The flower itself was cut off by about 10cm from the top and 10cm from the bottom, so as you check the box, you can put your hand in and you feel the flowers, but as you reach more into the box itself, you find the plastic bags with the cannabis.

    The couriers drove their lorries to The Hook of Holland and then on to ferries bound for Harwich.

    With hundreds of lorries leaving and arriving each day, it is impossible for UK customs to search every one.

    But in March 2009, acting on intelligence, Wiltshire detectives stopped Michael Woodage's white van on the M4 after he had left Poplar farm.

    Inside they discovered 50kg of cannabis.

    The seizure of millions of pounds of cannabis, tens of thousands of pounds of cash and the smashing of an international drugs ring is seen as a major victory for Wiltshire detectives and their Dutch colleagues.

    Det Ch Insp Owen Gillard who led the Wiltshire investigation said: It's not something I've seen in my policing career and probably won't do again.

    It's a very, very, significant find, just the complexity of the operation, security, the measures that Barnes put in place for straight law enforcement activity which he'd done very well.

    He'd obviously been doing it for 14 weeks and we didn't have a clue he was doing it at the time.

    Three members of the gang were convicted of supplying Class B drugs at Bristol Crown Court on Friday.

    Four other men and a woman had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class B drugs.

    They will all be sentenced at a later date.

    Friday, 18 June 2010

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  1. buseman
    Haul thought to be one of UK's biggest

    THREE men were found guilty yesterday for their part in one of the largest drug supply rings in the country that was based near Swindon.

    The group used Dutch flower lorries to import about £60m- worth of ‘skunk’ cannabis into the UK between January and May 2009.

    They then took it to a farm in Wanborough to be repackaged and sent off to drug suppliers around the country.

    After one trial collapsed due to jury tampering, David Barnes, Michael Woodage and Christopher Wills were each found guilty of conspiring to supply class-B Drugs following a six-week trial at Bristol Crown Court.

    Stephen Docking, who was also on trial for the same charge, was found not guilty.

    For the first time it can also be reported that five other defendants who were involved in the drug ring pleaded guilty to the same charge ahead of the trial.

    The Swindon Advertiser can also exclusively reveal that one of those five is Swindon-born glamour model Melinda Messenger’s former stepfather, Nigel Hyland.

    Hyland, 50, who told police he was a tattooist, was found with a large amount of cash, drugs and mobile phones when police searched his home in Laburnum Road.

    Barnes, Woodage and Wills showed no emotion as the verdicts were read out.

    Mr Docking shook hands with Wills and exchanged words with the other two as he left the dock and Wills was later seen in tears.

    Judge James Tabor QC said all eight defendants would be sentenced together in July.

    Detective Chief Inspector Owen Gillard, of Wiltshire Police, said the men ran possibly the largest skunk cannabis distribution operation in the UK.

    He said: This is the biggest operation of its kind that Wiltshire Police has ever come across and certainly one of the biggest in the UK.

    They were the top end of the cannabis distribution network in the UK, there was no-one bigger than them.

    During the 14-15 week period that this conspiracy covered they imported 10 tonnes of cannabis into the UK at a rate of 800kg a week.

    That’s a £60 million operation.

    Ringleader David Barnes, 41, lived at New Hayward Farm, Hungerford, but was Swindon born and bred.

    He rented a barn at Poplar Farm in Wanborough which was turned into a veritable fortress with a reinforced steel door and infra-red security cameras.

    It was there that he and his partner in crime, Nigel Hyland, 50, of Laburnum Road, Swindon, ran the operation.

    Drugs would come into the country on flower lorries from Holland and then couriers would take it to a storage unit in the village of Whittonditch, near Ramsbury, to be stored before being taken on to Poplar Farm.

    That unit had been rented out by Michael Woodage, 51, of Hartley Meadows in Whitchurch, Hampshire.

    The sophisticated operation relied on an army of couriers who transported the drugs from different storage locations as well as money from dealers.

    These included Christopher Wills, 29, of Bracknell in Berkshire, and Alexander Post, 34, of Belvedere in Kent.

    Emma Stevens, 39, used her home in Bracknell to store large amounts of money and drugs.

    The last man involved in the drug ring was Franciscus Kattekamp, 38, of Kaatsheuvel in the Netherlands, who ran the Dutch side of the operation.

    DCI Gillard said Wiltshire Police were now focusing on recovering the money made out of the scheme.

    These organised criminals have made significant amounts of money from this that we suspect are hidden away, he said.

    We will be working with our partners at the Regional Asset Recovery Team and are looking forward to going after the assets of David Barnes and other people involved.

    A CHANCE tip-off to Wiltshire Police led to the uncovering of one of the UK’s largest drugs rings that was based just outside Swindon.

    Using the perfect cover of flower lorries bringing fresh blooms into Britain, David Barnes, Michael Woodage and Nigel Hyland imported about 10 tonnes of skunk cannabis into the UK over a 14-week period with a street value of about £60m.

    Their scheme began to unravel on April 24, 2009, when the police received information that a courier was coming to Swindon to collect some drugs.

    With no idea of the scale of the operation they were about to uncover they followed a blue van as it pulled into a farmyard, at Poplar Farm in Wanborough, housing what appeared to be a collection of derelict barns.

    When it left 10 minutes later the driver, now known to have been Stephen Docking, who was cleared of conspiring to supply class-B drugs after he told the court he thought he had been delivering contraband tobacco, was pulled over by police.

    They found 50kg of skunk cannabis with a street value of £225,000 inside.

    Officers then turned their attention to Poplar Farm where it soon became apparent that one of the barns had been substantially reinforced.

    Every window and door had been blocked, the exterior of the building was covered by a hi-tech infra-red CCTV camera system and there were a series of steel doors and shutters.

    Officers remained at the premises overnight and, in the early hours of the morning were surprised to see a van, being driven by Michael Woodage, pull into the farmyard.

    He claimed to have been collecting some items for a friend but when officers searched his van they found it to contain 226kg of skunk cannabis with an estimated street value of more than £1m.

    Inside the barn at Poplar Farm they found fork-lift trucks, shrink-wrapping equipment and other drug-related items consistent with a ‘distribution centre’ set up.

    Ledgers were found which linked the farm with the importation and distribution of about 10 tonnes of skunk cannabis between January and April 2009.

    Another search, carried out at an industrial unit leased by Woodage in Whittonditch near Ramsbury, Hungerford, also revealed equipment usually used to fit out a drug-distribution centre.

    When Barnes was arrested at Heathrow Airport on April 28 and taken in for questioning he answered ‘no comment’ to everything.

    Even when presented with evidence of how the drug ring had worked he denied involvement.

    The supply network was set up using coded customer numbers and those operating at Poplar Farm maintained ledgers detailing customer numbers, dates, weights and prices.

    Collections were arranged using pre-paid mobile phones that would only call one number.

    The passing of mobile numbers was done under the cover of codes devised by Barnes using bank notes – when the two parties met one produced the bank note and the other a piece of paper with the serial written on it.

    But in the end it was the sophistication of the drug ring that supplied police with enough evidence they needed to prosecute those involved.

    Saturday 19th June 2010
    By Charley Morgan
  2. Balzafire
    Gang jailed after 'drug farm' raid

    A drug-smuggling gang were last night behind bars after being jailed for a total of 45 years for trafficking £60million of cannabis.
    The eight members of the network were caught after two vans carrying more than £1million worth of the potent skunk cannabis were stopped just 24 hours apart.
    An isolated farm in Wanborough, near Swindon, was later searched where police found evidence of a commercial drugs operation that had processed 10 tons of the drug in 14 weeks.
    Ringleader David Barnes, 41, from Hungerford, Wilts, was jailed for 12 years, Michael Woodage, 51, from Whitchurch, Hants, for eight years and their six accomplices were jailed for between seven and threeand-a-half years.

    25/07/2010 news
  3. Insomniacsdream
    "I'm about to cry, that was so close to me and their has been a significant drop in quality over the last year"
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