£7.84m heroin smuggling gang jailed


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The Independent Online

Three drug dealers have been jailed for their part in an international heroin smuggling ring.

Matthew Edward, 48, Peter Gordon, 31 and Richard Harrison, 57, pleaded guilty to being involved in supplying heroin with an estimated street value of £7.84 million, the Crown Office said.

Italian police found 75lb of diamorphine - heroin - concealed in a consignment of breadsticks when they stopped a Scottish lorry travelling from Greece at the port of Bari last November.

The offences happened in locations across Scotland, England, Italy, Greece, Spain and the Netherlands between October 2 and November 27 last year.

At the High Court in Glasgow today, Edward was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment, Gordon to seven years six months, and Harrison to nine years behind bars.

They were also handed travel restriction orders (TROs) which bar them from leaving the UK for a certain period after release.

Edward and Gordon, from Glasgow, were given TROs of 10 and five years respectively while Harrison, from Liverpool, was issued with an eight-year TRO.

Detective Chief Inspector Colin Boyle, of Police Scotland, said: "This was a complex and detailed investigation with a number of officers dedicated to this long-running inquiry.

"We worked with a number of agencies during this operation, including the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, National Crime Agency and our law enforcement partners in Italy.

"The people involved showed absolutely no regard for the harm that these drugs could inflict on Scotland's communities.

"This sentencing today sends out a clear message to those intent on causing misery by supplying and selling drugs, that this will not be tolerated by Police Scotland. No one is untouchable.

"No matter where you are running your business from, if you intend to supply drugs on to the streets of Scotland we will use every means at our disposal and work with our partner agencies throughout the world to track you down and bring you to justice."

Confiscation proceedings have also been launched against the three men.

The Crown Office said the trio were caught following a Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency operation which launched a surveillance operation against Edward.

It found that he, Gordon and Harrison were arranging to import a large amount of controlled drugs from Europe into the UK.

On October 13 Gordon and Harrison met at a McDonald's restaurant in Wembley, London, with bags containing around £400,000 which was handed to an English crime group to help buy diamorphine on behalf of the group in which Edward was a key player.

But the drugs were not ready and Gordon returned to Scotland empty-handed.

On November 24 a Scottish lorry travelling from Greece was intercepted in Bari where Italian officers found the drugs hidden among breadsticks.

The two men on board, Samuel Wilson and Peter Cameron, are in custody in Italy, having pleaded guilty and received sentences of eight years and six years respectively, the Crown Office said.

Edward and Gordon were arrested on November 27 and Harrison on November 28 last year.

Lindsey Miller, head of the serious organised crime division for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), said: "This case clearly demonstrates the tenacity and effectiveness of the Scottish prosecution service and law enforcement agencies, in working on an international scale to bring to justice those involved in organised crime.

"In particular, we have had the assistance of colleagues in the Crown Prosecution Service and the National Crime Agency in the UK, and the Guardia di Finanza and specialist prosecutors in Italy.

"This outstanding result would not have been possible without their contribution and I would like to express my thanks to them all for their assistance

"Three key players in the supply of heroin to Scotland now not only face imprisonment for their crimes, but travel restrictions once they are released.

"Furthermore, the Crown has initiated confiscation proceedings against all three, to reclaim their illegal profits back to the public purse, where it will be reinvested in our communities through the Scottish Government's CashBack for Communities programme."