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8 September 2012, 06:00 | Updated: 10 September 2012, 11:49
A drug dealing great grandfather who was kidnapped and tortured after he lost three million pounds' worth of cocaine has been jailed for 18 years.
George Evans and his wife Anne, who was sentenced to 18 months for laundering his cash, lived the high life in a £410,000 home they bought for cash. They had Rolls Royce, a Jaguar and enjoyed luxury holidays and visits to casinos.
But their luck changed in November 2009 when the French police stopped a Ford Ranger pick-up truck, owned by Evans, on the A7 auto route near Valance. The truck was X-rayed and, inside specially-constructed hollow roof bars, the police found 29 kilos of cocaine in kilo packets. The drug had a purity of around 68% - which when cut down into street deals would have been worth in the region of £3 million.
Detectives believe Evans had been responsible for smuggling £15m of cocaine in the UK.
Judge Barbara Mensah told him: "Drug dealing is an evil trade and sentences have to be a warning that those who get involved will get heavy sentences. People should not think that if they take up drug dealing in their autumn years, judges will give them soft sentences."
She told his wife: "It is absolutely clear that you knew this was criminal money and I believe you knew it was drug money. You knew he was bringing in vast amounts of money."
Prosecutor Ben Gumpert told Luton Crown Court that Evans, who is now 76, was the brains of the operation who, as a welder, had constructed the false compartments -something he had done for the Palestine Liberation Organisation in the 1970s.
Evans' associates were angry and on 19 March 2010 he was kidnapped from his home at High Road, Beeston, Sandy, Beds. He was battered black and blue, had burns where he had been subjected to electric shocks and had a hole drilled into his foot. "The loss of £1 million pounds' worth of drugs is likely to have led to a substantial falling out with the people who are the losers. George Evans was getting the blame," said Mr Gumpert.
Forty eight hours later he was dumped in the village of Marston Moretaine, Beds. He knocked on a stranger's door and was taken to hospital, but he refused to tell the police who had kidnapped and tortured him. Giving evidence at his trial he said two men had been bundled him into a car and driven to his workshop. He was taken up to the M62 and put in a box. He was blindfolded the whole time and tortured.
His wife, now 53, had called the police on March 19 to say he had gone missing. Unbeknown to the couple detectives were already carrying out a covert investigation into their finances. Between June 2008 and March 2009, £324,000 cash had been deposited into accounts operated by the couple.
Police searched an outhouse at their home and found 5 kilos of Benzocain - an anaesthetic used by dentists and tattoo artists that is used to bulk out cocaine.
At Evans' workshop in New Road, Great Barford, Beds the police found 18 more kilos of Benzocaine. He was also converting a Mercedes Sprinter van so it also had concealed cavities. "It is quite clear George Evans was converting the Mercedes to make it a smuggling vehicle to replace the Ford Ranger. He had been deprived of his drugs and the tools of his trade," said the prosecutor.
Evans, a career criminal who was born in Tottenham, North London , had been a prosecution witness at an Old Bailey trial in the 1970s. He explained he had constructed false compartments to allow the Palestine Liberation Organisation to smuggle cannabis from Afghanistan to the UK. In 1982 he was caught smuggling tobacco and in 1989 was caught smuggling 50 kilos of cannabis at St Omer in France. He is a qualified pilot who once owned three light aircraft.
The driver of the Ford Ranger, who had the case dropped against him, had been asked to take aircraft parts from the UK to Girona in Spain by Evans. The great grandad met him there and then returned home by air.
Police checks revealed the George and Anne Evans had paid £410,000 for the house, outright with no mortgage, in April 2009. Only two years before they had been forced to sell a house in the village of Sutton, Beds because they had been unable to keep up with payments. That house had been bought with a purchase price of £670,000, and mortgaged to the tune of £469,000. Both George and Anne Evans were claiming state benefits throughout the period into which the police were enquiring and neither had declared any income to the Inland Revenue.
Evans was convicted of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. He and his wife were both convicted of money laundering.
A restraining order has been placed on the house, along with the Jaguar and Rolls Royce. A proceeds of crime hearing is to be held in December.
The police believe Evans had made other trips to Girona and was responsible six previous trips to Girona, indicating he could be responsible for smuggling around £15 million of cocaine at street value.
Sam SteinQC defending George Evans said: "Others were using him to make sure the transport was carried out. his time in prison will be more difficult and harder to bear than someone younger."
Bozzie Sheffi for Anne Evans said: "She will be vulnerable in prison and there is no one to look after her 16 year old son."
DCI Shane Roberts said: "It's quite clear that George Evans has spent years making money from illicit means, using his connections with organised crime groups and his skills as a welder to import significant amounts of drugs into the UK from Spain via France. Significant profits are made from this enterprise and it is those that he and his wife Anne enjoyed. He lived a glamorous lifestyle: trips abroad, personal airplanes, expensive cars, a big house; it was all there. His wife enjoyed the trappings of the good life as much as he did. The Proceeds of Crime Act provides a unique opportunity to bring to justice those generating profit from crime and those living off it. Historically gangsters' wives have lived on in luxury with impunity but this is no longer the case. A confiscation process will now also be implemented to strip the Evans of everything they have which has been bought from the proceeds of crime."
Detective Sergeant Giles Hutchinson: "It doesn't matter what age you are, if you have committed serious and organised crimes we will investigate you and bring you to justice. We have the ability and the determination to look overseas and liaise with police forces and agencies abroad where that is necessary. Having brought you to justice we will restrain the assets accumulated from your ill gotten gains and eventually have them confiscated. It should also be pointed out that having been sentenced and with a confiscation order granted against you, you have only a limited period of time to hand over the confiscation figure. Failure to do so will result in a further default prison sentence which you will serve in full. Even then, on your release, the confiscation amount will still be there and will stay there until the day you pay and we will continuously review the status of your wealth until the confiscation figure has been paid. There is a perception amongst both criminals and the general public that once you've done your time, it's a free pass to enjoy the fruits of your dishonest labour. That idea could not be further from the truth."
Baljit Ubhey OBE, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "Mr Evans was involved in a professional and organised operation to import substantial quantities of Class A drugs into the UK from Spain. His wife, Mrs. Evans chose to ignore her husband's criminality and sat back and enjoyed the proceeds of his lawless behaviour. The impact on communities of this high level drug importation is immense. Drugs ruin the lives of those who use them and damage the lives of law abiding citizens who become the victims of crimes committed to fund drug habits. Mr and Mrs Evans were motivated purely by money, without a care for the misery on which their potential millions were mounted. Thanks to a dedicated and detailed police investigation, followed by robust prosecution, a substantial quantity of Class A drugs have been removed from the supply chain, these big time criminals have been removed from society, and the public has been made safe from their dangerous, harmful, and life destroying activities. This case sends out a clear message that the CPS, and the police take these offences very seriously and anyone involved in arranging or participating in drug importation or dealing can expect to be prosecuted robustly. We will continue to work closely with our partners to ensure that persons involved in this kind of criminality are brought to justice. The CPS and police shall assist the Court in depriving them of the proceeds of their drug pedaling."