Page last updated at 16:02 GMT, Thursday, 25 March 2010

Smugglers jailed over 62m flower box cannabis plot

(Top l-r) Terrence Bowler, Peter Moran, Mark Kinnimont; (bottom l-r) Liam Salter, David Couchman and Timothy Sullivan
The gang smuggled cannabis in flower boxes from Holland

A gang of 12 men who smuggled skunk cannabis worth £62m into the UK from Holland, hiding it in flower boxes have been jailed at Southwark Crown Court.

The ringleader Terrence Bowler, 40, of Kingston, was jailed for 16 years. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import controlled drugs and money laundering.

The drugs were smuggled through ports in Essex and Hull and stored in garages in south-west London and Surrey.

The gang made £20m profit bringing in 88 shipments of cannabis.

'Board meetings'

Sentencing Bowler, Judge Gregory Stone QC said: "You are described as a senior controlling figure in the criminal group.

"You attended regular 'board meetings' to plan the operations, you were seen to brief new recruits to the organisation, you rented the premises to store drugs and others to store cash."

Two other "directors", Peter Moran, 37, of Fulham, west London, and Mark Kinnimont, 40, of Surbiton, south-west London, admitted the same charges.

A gang member unloading drugs in Marlborough Gardens
The gang stored cannabis in lock-up garages

Moran and Kinnimont were each handed 14-year sentences.

Liam Salter, 39, of Tadworth, Surrey, David Couchman, 38, of Southwark, south London, and Timothy Sullivan, 38, of Epsom, Surrey, formed the next tier in the hierarchy.

All three pleaded guilty to the same charges as Bowler.

Salter and Sullivan were jailed for seven years each while Couchman was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison.

The gang was under surveillance for 14 months, between August 2007 and November 2008, during which time they changed their smuggling route after police seized one consignment in July 2008.

Money 'went mouldy'

The gang initially smuggled the cannabis through a ferry port in Harwich, Essex, and stored the goods at a warehouse in Chatham, Kent.

Later they began shipping the drugs to Hull, storing them in a warehouse in Leeds temporarily before transporting and storing the drugs in lock-up garages in Kingston, Worcester Park, Epsom and Ashtead.

In two years, the gang smuggled in 88 shipments, almost 250kg (551lb) of the highly potent cannabis strain.

Mouldy money found in a safe in Kingston
Mouldy money found in a safe in Kingston

The gang kept no records of any transactions and so much cash was coming in that they were said to have forgotten about £60,000 in cash, which went mouldy in an underground safe in a garage in Kingston.

Police believe much of the laundered money was wired to accounts in Pakistan and Dubai, some of which may never be recovered.

The judge added that the gang "took care that the money and drugs were never together" to avoid losing both if they were caught.

Asim Bashir, 35, of Ilford, convicted of money laundering, was jailed for six years, while driver James Hay, 31, of Ashtead, got three and a half years for possession with intent to supply cannabis.

Roger Alexander, 44, of High Wycombe, Peter Brown, 37, of Kingston, and Barrie Burn, 59, of Hinton Road, Bristol, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply controlled drugs.

Alexander got eight years and a half years, Brown received a three and a half years and Burn was sentenced to four years in prison.

Another driver, Andrew West, 36, of Tadworth, received 18 months for money laundering.

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Gang smuggled 62m of cannabis
05 Mar 10 |  London

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