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2 June 2011, 05:00
Members of a drug gang who sold cocaine distributed from Essex to fund a "James Bond'' playboy lifestyle of fast cars, speedboats and luxury homes have been jailed.
The seven men transported millions of pounds of the Class A drug from their bases in Essex to users in Plymouth, Devon.
Amid tight security, with armed police officers looking on in the courtroom at Exeter Crown Court, Timothy Eastgate, 31, Paul Flisher, 38, James Wright, 28, Christopher Leader, 54, Stephen Procter, 38, Shaun Battle, 41 and Dean Birch, 26, were jailed for conspiracy to supply cocaine.
Their international network, which enabled them to buy Lamborghini and Ferrari sports cars, speedboats and villas on the Costa del Sol and in the English countryside, was exposed by police working on Operation Stagshaw after Leader's car was pulled over on the M5 in Devon for having no insurance.
Officers who examined the car in August 2009 after becoming suspicious of Leader's behaviour found five kilos of cocaine worth £250,000 in the boot, sparking the lengthy operation which ended with an 11-week trial.
Passing sentence, Judge Phillip Wassall said:
"By any means, this was a conspiracy that was professionally organised. It was funded by Eastgate and organised by him and others to supply a large amount of cocaine to the South West from the South East.''
Eastgate, from Sutton near Wymondham was jailed for 16 years for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and seven years for the two firearms offences, which he had previously admitted, a total of 23 years.
Filsher of Epping, Essex, was jailed for 14 years for the drugs offence and seven years for firearms offences, which he had also admitted, a total of 21 years.
Battle, of Bere Alston, Devon was jailed for 12 years, with Procter, of Plymouth, and Leader, of Romford, east London receiving nine years each. Wright, of Chingford, east London was jailed for eight years and six months and Birch, also from Chingford, because he pleaded guilty, for eight years.