Gang jailed for £100m drugs plot

10/02/2014

A gang that used organised fishing trips as a front to import drugs from abroad has been jailed for a total of 217 years at Warrington Crown Court.

The court heard that Warrington career criminal Richard Brookhouse was head of the £100 million drug importation conspiracy and masterminded the plot while in prison.

His co-conspirators came from Manchester, Liverpool, Cheshire, Leicestershire and West Yorkshire and were supplying other prominent drug dealers throughout the region.

Brookhouse's wife, Diane, drove him to various meetings with members of the gang while he was out on home release from an earlier prison term for drugs offences.

But detectives from Titan, the region's organised crime unit, had become suspicious about Brookhouse and were monitoring his movements.

Twelve months of surveillance culminated in the seizure in April last year of cocaine, heroin and the drug known as M-Cat, worth £12 million, in a coach park in Bicknacre, Essex.

Father and son team Paul and Steven Harwood from Urmston had imported the drugs from Europe and concealed them in fishing equipment in the back of a van.

Paul, 61, had been on several similar trips, using the cover of an organised fishing trip to France to bring the drugs back into this country.

Neil Flewitt, QC, prosecuting, said: "Paul and Steven Harwood were members of a large organised crime group who, between them, were responsible for the importation and distribution throughout the North West of England of large quantities of controlled drugs."

Brookhouse was described in court as the 'controlling mind' of the conspiracy and used his contacts in the criminal underworld both in the UK and Europe to find people willing to bulk buy the drugs.

Andrew Wilde, aged 53 from Partington, Manchester, was the gang's transport manager and organised the fishing trips to Europe.

Karl Glennon, aged 47, from Urmston, Manchester and Stephen Crane, aged 55, from Leicestershire also made trips abroad to collect the drugs under the direction of Wilde.

Carl Wall met Richard Brookhouse in prison and was described in court as being a 'major Merseyside drug dealer' who dealt in wholesale quantities of imported Class A drugs.

Detectives believe the majority of the drugs found in the van in Essex were destined for Wall and two other 'wholesalers' - Gerrard Mooney and Darren Williams.
 
Mooney, 31, from Liverpool, was arrested by police during the Grand National race at Aintree racecourse last April on the same day that the drugs were seized in Essex.
 
Williams, aged 39, also from Liverpool, was similarly involved in buying large quantities of the drugs brought back from the fishing trips.
 
The eight other defendants who pleaded guilty - including Bury brothers Omar and Ali Amin - had acted as dealers and couriers.

Eighteen of the 23 strong gang were sentenced at Warrington Crown Court and the five others will be sentenced in March.

Helen Morris, Senior Crown Prosecutor for the Complex Casework Unit of the Crown Prosecution Service Mersey-Cheshire said: "This has been a long and complex case, involving many defendants.

"Bringing this before the courts has taken months of work by the Crown Prosecution Service working closely with the investigation team.

"The strength of the case was such that most of the gang pleaded guilty once the matter was put before the Crown Court, others were convicted after a lengthy trial.

"I would like to thank the officers from TITAN for all their hard work gathering the evidence.

"This gang was importing and distributing millions of pounds worth of Class A drugs which cause real misery in communities. The sentences handed down by the Court clearly reflect that."