International Drugs Ring-Defendants Sentenced

29/07/2013

As the main defendants are sentenced for their role in an international drugs ring, the lawyer in the case Roger Woodward explains how the prosecution was built.

"Operation Muzzle spanned eight countries and a number of jurisdictions. The prosecution took 15 months to build and manage through the courts and more than 7,000 pages of evidence were produced. This brought thirteen people to court to account for their role in the drugs network. Of those 10 pleaded guilty and a further two were convicted after trial.

"This was an incredibly sophisticated drugs network using detailed spreadsheets to monitor stocks, supply, demand, values, interest rates for stakeholders and shares. However the prosecution investigation was equally sophisticated, calling upon the use of listening probes, detailed mobile phone analysis and tracking the use of computers. In fact it was this technology that picked up Paul Robinson (the man who was running the operation in South Yorkshire) speaking frankly about his involvement.

"We also proved that Richard Stead and Paul Robinson, two major drug dealers in Barnsley, co-operated with each other and shared their sources of supply.

"We also used this technology to prove that Frank Babar, the main importer, was arranging the imports. All of the communication with the shipping agent was from Justin Manley. Our case was that this was, in fact, a name used by Frank Babar. During the trial he denied being Justin Manley and tried to persuade the court the importation was conducted by Urban and Russo (found Not Guilty). Using mobile phone cell site analysis and other technology, we could prove that any communication sent from Justin Manley was, in fact, sent from Frank Babar as he moved around the world.

"South Yorkshire Police gathered excellent evidence which helped us to build such a strong case."

Each member of Robinsons network adopted a name of a character in the Stanley Kubrick film 'Full Metal Jacket'.

Roger explains: "Their name was aligned to their position within the organisation. For example, the director of the organisation was nicknamed 'Kubrick' as he directed the film. There was also 'Joker', 'Hartmann', 'Colonel', 'Cowboy', 'Payback' and more. They also gave locations code names such as 'The Strip' which was Ecclesall Road in Sheffield. 'Kubrick' was identified as Michael Dyson, originally from Barnsley, who ran the operation from the Netherlands. He was extradited from the Netherlands together with another member of the gang. Another dealer fled to Spain after the arrest of Robinson and he was also extradited.

"This was an incredibly profitable network which, on what they considered a bad month, could turn over £500,000. Shares in the network were sold for up to £50,000 and the interest they received in return was determined by their rank within their network. The amount of money changing hands was phenomenal. As yet we haven't been able to determine how much exactly the network was worth, but South Yorkshire Police are looking into this as we intend to pursue the money under the Proceeds  of Crime Act.

"We do know that between June 2010 and January 2012, a total of seven lifts were imported into the UK from Mexico by the organisation. Two lifts were seized in Mexico in January 2012 which had 24 kg in each lift. If all the lifts contained 24 kilos, a total of 168 kilos would have been imported. Import quality cocaine is worth £50,000 a kilo (undiluted, the total would be worth £8.4 million). Before selling on to to street dealers, the cocaine would be mixed 2:1 or 3:1 and still sold on for £50,000 a kilo. At 2:1 we believe 168 kilos would have raised a minimum of £25.2 million.

"We've removed the source for now but we are acutely aware that there are others waiting to step into the shoes of these men. Our message to those people is that we will use the very best of modern technology to build a case against you which will aim to take your liberty and your ill-gotten gains."