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4 July 2016, 14:16 | Updated: 4 July 2016, 14:29
The head of an organised crime network linked to Northants, Suffolk and Essex to the UK-wide distribution of cocaine and heroin worth £1.6 bn across the UK has been jailed for 20 years.
James Gibson, 56 from Ollerton, Notts, had a leading role in distributing substantial amounts of class A drugs to organised crime groups across the UK using trusted, willing and well paid couriers.
He had direct links with a Dutch organised crime group (OCG) who used a fleet of fake ambulances to bring up to £1.6bn worth of drugs including high-purity cocaine and heroin to the UK.
In early June 2015, CCTV footage from the Holiday Inn Express in Colchester, Essex, showed Gibson meeting with Dutchmen Olaf Schoon and Leonardus Bijlsma. The following day a Dutch registered ambulance was seen to enter the car park of the hotel where substantial quantities of drugs were unloaded by waiting couriers, some under the control of Gibson, for onward distribution across the UK.
On the 16th June 2015, NCA Officers intercepted one of the ambulances in Smethwick. The ambulance contained 193 kilos of high purity cocaine with a potential street value in excess of £30million, 74 kilos of heroin with a potential street value in excess of £8million and MDMA (ecstasy) with a potential street value of £60,000. A
A dealer list was seized at the scene which identified a person by the name of 'Gibbo' who would play a pivotal role in the collection and distribution of the drugs concealed within the ambulance.
On the same day, evidence showed that Gibson drove towards the Smethwick area for the intended rendezvous with the ambulance. However, he aborted the trip when he became aware his Dutch counterparts, Schoon and Biljsma had been arrested.
Schoon and Bijlsma were later convicted of conspiracy to import class A drugs in November 2015, receiving prison sentences of 24 years and 28 years respectively.
One of Gibson's trusted couriers and friend Raymond DeSilva, 60, from Slough in Berkshire, was arrested with Schoon and Biljsma as he arrived to meet the ambulance to collect an order of drugs. Petrit Kastrati, 41 from Crystal Palace, London, working for a separate OCG, was also arrested as he arrived to collect his order.
Gibson's criminal activities extended beyond the Dutch OCG.
On the 19th September 2015, NCA officers observed Gibson meet with one of his trusted couriers, Darren Owen, 48, from Rushden , Northants at Raunds Services.
The following day Owen was arrested in Sudbury having collected two boxes containing class A drugs from another courier, Richard Clarke, 36, from Acton in Suffolk. Forensic analysis of Owen's mobile phone showed that he was instructed by Gibson in relation to this collection.
Clarke's house was used to store the drugs before they were distributed around the UK. When officers searched his house, they discovered five cardboard boxes in the kitchen, each containing heat-sealed blocks of class A drugs, the same that had been found in Owen's vehicle.
While officers were conducting the search of Clarke's house, they observed a black BMW drive past, slow down and take an interest in what was happening before accelerating away. The vehicle was later stopped and the driver was identified as Jonathan Floyd, 47 from Burnage in Manchester.
He was unable to account for why he was so far from home and he was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of controlled drugs.
Encrypted emails seized from Clarke's mobile phone shows he was instructed to provide the driver of a black BMW with a quantity of drugs marked with the number 8. One of the boxes found in Clarke's house was marked with the number '8' and further encrypted messages on Floyd's phone showed he was due to collect a box marked with an '8'.
The two boxes in Owen's vehicle and the five boxes in Clarke's kitchen contained approximately 58 kilos of class A drugs, with an estimated street value of £8m (53 kilos of cocaine - estimated street value of £7.5m and five kilos of heroin - estimated street value of £500,000).
Evidence showed that Clarke took receipt of a total of 17 boxes the day before his arrest. Two had been given to Owen, five were found in his kitchen meaning he had moved ten elsewhere. Officers estimate that the 17 boxes - had they all been recovered - would have contained approximately 152 kilos of class A, with an estimated potential street value £20m.
Darren Owen, Jonathan Floyd, Raymond DeSilva and Petrit Kastrati were all charged with conspiracy to import and supply class A drugs and Richard Clarke charged with conspiracy to supply class A drugs only.
Today at Birmingham Crown Court, Owen and Floyd were both sentenced to 15 years in prison, DeSilva 16 years, Kastrati 17-and-a-half years and Clarke 11 years.
Brent Lyon, Operations Manager at the National Crime Agency said:
"This was an audacious plot by organised criminals who were driven by profit and who went to extreme lengths to avoid law enforcement attention.
Gibson's influence and organisation was significant, from the relationship he had with the Dutch organised crime group to the trusted network of UK couriers he used to distribute substantial amounts of class A drugs throughout the country.
"The six men sentenced today knew they were engaged in serious and organised crime yet continued their drug trafficking activities regardless. However, due to the weight of evidence we provided, they were left with no choice but to plead guilty to all the charges put to them.
I have no doubt that through our activity, we have disrupted the endeavours of a number of organised crime groups operating in the UK. We will continue to be flexible and use all the tools available to us to target organised criminals and protect the communities that we serve".
Today, Darren Owen, 48, from Balham Close in Rushden was sentenced to 15 years in prison for conspiracy to fraudulently evade the prohibition on the importation of controlled class A drugs and conspiracy to supply a controlled class A drugs.
Richard Clarke, 36, Tots Gardens in Acton, Sufolk has been sentenced to 11 years for conspiracy to supply controlled class A drugs.