Cocaine and cannabis smugglers and dealers sentenced - Bedfordshire

31/07/2015

Four men involved in a plot to smuggle cocaine worth at least £1.4 million into the UK have been jailed for a total of 64 years today, Friday, 31 July 2015.

Police foiled the plan by using covert recordings of the planning stages before any of the drugs made it from Columbia via South Africa.

At the same hearing at Luton Crown Court, the same four men along with six others involved in a plot to import and supply cannabis were jailed for a total of 19 years and four months. An eleventh man was given a suspended sentence.

That conspiracy came to light when police stopped a van after it left Tilbury docks loaded with cannabis, and cash totalling £87,000 pounds. The cannabis had been shipped from Amsterdam.

One defendant, Paul Taylor, aged 64, from Barton, Bedfordshire, initially stood trial for cocaine smuggling, but a Judge ruled he was unfit to continue with the proceedings as he was suffering from dementia. As a result, the jury found in his absence that he committed the offence, but Judge Philip Bartle QC passed a sentence of an absolute discharge. However, he was jailed for four and a half years for the cannabis offence, which he had pleaded guilty to previously.

Jailing the men, who came from London, Kent, Slovenia and Amsterdam, the Judge said: "I am satisfied you were all involved solely for financial reward. Although the devastating effects of drugs are well known, at no point in your conversations do any of you refer to, let alone show concern for, the harm caused by drugs."

He said, as no cocaine was ever actually smuggled in, he had to make a judgement of how much was likely to have been imported. The prosecution were suggesting 100 kilos, while defence lawyers suggested the men should be sentenced on the basis of five kilos, and said talk of larger amounts was "just talk."

Judge Bartle said he was satisfied that at least 40 kilos of the Class A drug would have been involved costing £1,144,000 and worth a much higher value when sold on. He said he was sentencing on the basis that 300 kilos of cannabis was brought in. He described it as a "sophisticated and professional" operation.

The year long police operation was run by the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit.

Before the court were:

  • David Leitz, aged 63, from Prule, SLOVENIA. He was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to import cocaine and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cannabis and was jailed for 18 years.
  • Paul Jordan, aged 49, of Leeside, BARNET, LONDON. He was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to import cocaine and was also jailed for 18 years.
  • Raffaele Contato, aged 34, of Prayle Grove, BRENT CROSS,LONDON. He was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to import cocaine and was jailed for 16 years.
  • Colin McNamara, aged 50, of Hillfield Avenue, HORNSEY, LONDON. He was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to import cocaine and pleaded guilty to the cannabis plot. He was jailed for 12 years.
  • Erik Strack Van Schijndel, aged 63, of AMSTERDAM. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cannabis and was jailed for five and a half years.
  • Luigi Salvone, aged 66, of Uplands Road, HORNSEY, LONDON and Barry Gadsdon, aged 33, of Mountbatten Gardens, BECKENHAM, KENT both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cannabis and were each jailed for two and a half years.
  • Gavin Leon, aged 49, of Crestbrook Avenue, ENFIELD, LONDON and David Cumberbatch, aged 55, of Uplands Road, HORNSEY, LONDON also both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cannabis and were jailed for two years and two months.
  • Douglas Dinsmore, aged 51, of Beaconsfield Road, ENFIELD, LONDON was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to supply cannabis. He was given a 12 month prison sentence suspended for two years with supervision and 150 hours unpaid work.
  • As described above, Paul Taylor, aged 64, of Dunstall Road, BARTON, BEDS was jailed for four and a half years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to import cannabis. He was declared unfit to plead to conspiracy to import cocaine and given an absolute discharge.

Hearings will be held later to consider confiscation of assets under Proceeds of Crime legislation.

Please note - all court copies are provided by South Beds News Agency, who retain the copyright for all articles published.