Man in £3.5bn drug cutting ring jailed

Close up of open barrel
Close up of open barrel

A FLEETWOOD criminal at the centre of a multibillion-pound cocaine cutting ring has been jailed for 15 years.

John Cawley, of Forshaw Close, Fleetwood, had previously been found guilty of conspiring to supply cocaine, diamorphine and amphetamine, following an extensive investigation by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

John Cawley, who has been jailed for 15 years.

John Cawley, who has been jailed for 15 years.

Officers discovered 31-year-old Cawley and co-defendant Barry Hartley were associates of ringleader Jamie Dale and had helped him import more than 36 tonnes of cutting agent.

The powder, commonly used to ‘cut’ cocaine and is also mixed with amphetamine and heroin, was then sold on to dealers at around £1,000 a barrel. This could have been used to produce cocaine with a street value of £3.5bn.

Senior investigating officer John Wright said: “The trade in cutting agents is a major enabler of criminal activity, generating huge profits for drug dealers and making Class A drugs cheaper and more available at street level.

“Without criminals such as Jamie Dale, cocaine would cost users four or five times as much, making it prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of the country, and consequently far less accessible.”

The three defendants, who denied their involvement, were sentenced yesterday following a two-month trial at Leeds Crown Court for offences dating back between September 2005 and July 2008.

Dale, 32, of Claymere Avenue, Rochdale, has been jailed for 18 years while Hartley, 63, of Cog Lane, Burnley, was sentenced to 11 years.

The court heard Dale bought the cutting agents – including benzocaine, lidocaine and procaine – using a dummy ‘front’ company, assisted by Cawley who used a false identity.

Hartley was involved in the delivery and supply of the chemicals to contacts.

In 2007, the gang switched from using false identities to using Dale’s own company, Bioflo, for further importations. But the gang by this stage was being tracked by the police who had begun marking barrels they believed were being imported by the defendants.

As a result of Operation Junko, more than 21 raids were carried out across the UK including in Blackpool, Bristol, Bournemouth, Rotherham and Edinburgh.

Officers discovered large blocks of cocaine weighing almost 3kg as well as large drum containing 21.1kg of benzocaine after raiding two properties on Woodland Grove and Bampton Avenue in Blackpool in 2007.

Detectives were able to trace the consignments back to Bioflo and linked the trio together.

Alun Milford, head of organised crime division at the CPS, said: “Police and CPS will continue to bring those involved in such insidious crimes to justice.”