£3 million cannabis gang jailed

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Four men caught supplying £3 million of cannabis resin by Scotland's crimefighting agency were jailed today.

The gang was arrested following a major police operation led by the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA).

Officers carrying out surveillance as part of Operation Quartz watched as vast quantities of the drug were delivered to business premises in Paisley, Renfrewshire.

The SCDEA said it suspected the group was importing the resin from Morocco via Europe with the help of associates in Spain.

The men pleaded guilty at the High Court in Glasgow earlier this month to being involved in the supply of the drug.

They are John McHugh and Joseph Boland, both 54, from Busby, East Renfrewshire, Martin Gray, 41, from Ardrossan, Ayrshire, and Garry Ralph, 38, from Glasgow's Tollcross area.

Operation Quartz resulted in the seizure of more than one tonne (1,023kg) of cannabis resin - the largest single drugs seizure by the SCDEA in 2009-10, with an estimated street value of £2,922,857.

McHugh and Boland were seen unloading the drugs from a van following the delivery to premises in Scotts Road on July 24 last year.

Gray and Ralph were arrested the same day after they were seen taking some of the resin from the industrial unit.

The men were sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow today.

McHugh was jailed for five years and three months, with Boland and Ralph both given three years and seven months. Gray was handed a sentence of three years and three months.

SCDEA Detective Chief Superintendent Allan Moffat said: "These criminals are now where they belong - firmly behind bars serving much-deserved jail terms.

"These men intended to supply significant amounts of cannabis to our communities, where cannabis remains to be the most widely misused controlled drug.

"Those involved in serious organised crime do not care about the impact on our communities caused by the fear and violence associated with the illegal drugs trade, or the health and social impact of drugs misuse.

"Drug dealers are only concerned about the significant profits they can generate from their criminal activities.

"The successful outcome of this investigation means that we have disrupted the activities of this gang and we have prevented their harmful drugs from ever reaching the streets."

Cannabis is the drug adults most commonly use in Scotland, according to a crime survey published at the beginning of the year.

Yesterday, the SCDEA revealed that police forces have seized nearly £40 million of cannabis plants in the past four years.

The figures were released as the agency launched a campaign calling on the public to report suspicious activity to the police.

Tell-tale signs of cannabis farms include blacked-out windows, premises being unoccupied most of the time, unusual amounts of heat coming through the walls and floor, and the sound of fans or extractor fans.